ARNOLD Van Opstal asserted himself against a lean Ateneo frontcourt, helping De La Salle end a three-year win drought against their fierce rivals with a 82-73 win over the Blue Eagles on Sunday in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The athletic Van Opstal scored 11 of his 18 points in the second half as La Salle's bench players rose to the occasion in a third-quarter run that saw the Green Archers outscore the Blue Eagles, 31-16, to overturn a game Ateneo had dominated up until that point.
Van Opstal's fellow sub Luigi Dela Paz also scored all of his 10 points in the second half as the Green Archers snapped a six-game losing streak to their archrivals and climbed to a 2-1 win-loss slate for solo third place in the team standings.
Almond Vosotros also came up big for La Salle with a team-high 19 points including nine in that third-quarter blitz. Jeron Teng added 13 points.
Ateneo, still without injured star Kiefer Ravena, fell to its third consecutive loss and moved on the verge of matching an 0-4 start in 1997 under then-head coach Perry Ronquillo.
La Salle won despite trailing by 12 points at the half, 28-40.
“I just told the players we weren’t executing in the first half,” said La Salle coach Juno Sauler. “We weren’t sharing the ball … I just told them to stop trying to do things on their own and basically execute what we do on offense.”
Vosotros got La Salle to its first deadlock since the early goings with a jumper, 50-50, late in the third before his three-point play gave the Green Archers a 59-56 lead entering the fourth.
La Salle then pulled away to a 74-66 lead before Dela Paz hit a triple and a deuce from the left corner to avert any possible Ateneo comeback.
Van Opstal stepped up for foul-troubled frontcourt starter Jason Perkins and took advantage of Ateneo’s foul woes with center JP Erram fouling out late in the third period. Erram’s back-up Frank Golla fouled out moments later.
“It’s my first time beating Ateneo,” Van Opstal said. “We came into this game thinking that this is our time.”
Van Opstal and Dela Paz outscored the entire Ateneo bench, 28-9.
Chris Newsome had 27 points for the Blue Eagles, who had won 12 out of the last 13 matches against the Green Archers prior to the game. Juami Tiongon had 14 points while Ryan Buenafe added 11 for the reigning five-time champions.
La Salle (82) – Vosotros 19, Van Opstal 18, Teng 13, Dela Paz 10, Perkins 9, T. Torres 8, N. Torres 5, Reyes 0, Montalbo 0, Bolick 0.
Ateneo (73) – Newsome 27, Tiongson 14, Buenafe 11, Pessumal 10, Erram 6, Elorde 3, Golla 2, Tolentino 0, Capacio 0, Babilonia 0.
Quarterscores: 16-20; 28-40; 59-56; 82-73.