ALL the talk of La Salle sweeping Season 79 of the UAAP turned out to be premature.
Ateneo captured its third straight win, but nothing bigger than this one, as the Blue Eagles dealt the Green Archers their first loss of the season, 83-71, on Saturday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Aaron Black put on his best offensive performance since returning from a foot injury, scoring 16 points while Isaac Go led an Ateneo defense that forced the Green Archers to bleed for points all game.
Their seventh win in 11 outings enabled the Blue Eagles to solidify their hold of third place and set the stage for a Final Four, which would've been set aside had La Salle swept the two-round eliminations.
Ateneo is now assured of a place in the Final Four in a game that was expected to be as lopsided as the two rivals' first encounter that a lot of fans didn't even bother to show up at the Big Dome.
The Green Archers remained in first place with a 12-1 win-loss record but the defeat prevented La Salle from earning an automatic berth in the finals.
Matt Nieto finished with 15 points, while Adrian Wong added 11 points. Go held his own against Ben Mbala, contributing 10 points and seven rebounds for the Blue Eagles.
Jeron Teng had 18 points while Mbala added 17 points and 15 rebounds but shot just 5-of-13 from the field.
In contrast, the Blue Eagles were superb from the field as they shot 33-of-65 and outrebounded the mighty Green Archers, 48-43.
It was the second time in recent times that Ateneo denied La Salle a sweep. The Blue Eagles of 2002 beat a Green Archers squad that were seeking the sweep of the elimination round on the 14th and final game.
Ateneo (83) - Black 16, Ma. Nieto 15, Wong 11, Go 10, Asistio 9, Verano 6, Ravena 4, Tolentino 4, Mi. Nieto 4, Mendoza 4, Ikeh 0, Babilonia 0.
La Salle (71) - Teng 18, Mbala 17, Melecio 11, Montalbo 6, Caracut 6, P. Rivero 4, Perkins 3, Torres 3, Tratter 3, Go 0, R.Rivero 0, Baltazar 0, Sargent 0.
Quarters: 23-16, 44-36, 61-50, 83-71.