AFTER a dominant run to the UAAP Season 79 Finals, La Salle never truly dominated Ateneo in the thrilling 79-72 Game Two win to sweep the best-of-three championship series on Wednesday based on the stats of the game.
Both squads were almost equal in every aspect. The Blue Eagles even won the battle of the boards over a La Salle team with a towering frontcourt led by Ben Mbala, 49-38.
But some spectators inside the packed Smart Araneta Coliseum saw it in a different light, saying they didn't need to check the stat sheet to see that La Salle was simply a cut above Ateneo — or the rest of the UAAP teams this season for that matter.
For them, La Salle was just too much for the young Ateneo side, thanks in large part to its ‘mayhem’ defense that had caused havoc on most teams the Green Archers faced this season.
"They stuck with their identity, yung defense nila," said Jeron Teng's brother, Jeric, when asked what spelled the difference for the Green Archers, who limited the Blue Eagles to a woeful 34 percent shooting.
That, and La Salle's formidable roster bannered by league MVP Mbala and Finals MVP Teng overwhelmed the Blue Eagles, according to PBA player Joseph Yeo.
Yeo, a former La Salle star, even tagged this Green Archers unit as arguably the best La Salle lineup ever, especially with Mbala's addition.
"I think ito yung pinakamalakas, pinaguusapan namin ng mga co-players ko before sa La Salle, I think this is the best lineup na na-form ng La Salle," said Yeo, who was among the 17,495 fans in attendance at the Big Dome.
"Kasi ngayon lang naman nagkaroon ng foreign player ang La Salle e, si Mbala. Before kasi kami Fil-Am lang," he added.
Barangay Ginebra assistant coach Olsen Racela, a member of two Ateneo champion teams during his college career, almost shared the same sentiment.
"This game, La Salle showed talent for talent," said Racela.
Given La Salle's dominant year and an almost intact lineup heading into next season, Racela even believed that the Green Archers are on track for a repeat, as long as Mbala is around.
"Next year, La Salle pa rin siguro. Andiyan pa si Mbala eh," he said.