La Salle championship makes three-year wait well worth it for 'Big Ben' Mbala
Ben Mbala could not hold back his tears following La Salle's title-clinching win. Jerome Ascano

BEN Mbala said winning the UAAP Season 79 title is truly special, more so since he had to wait for three years before he can show his wares in the league and lead La Salle back on top.

Mbala was merely a spectator when La Salle won the championship in 2013, as he was taking up residency after transferring from Southwestern University to the Green Archers.

Then he had to sit out an extra year after he was declared ineligible for the 2015 season for playing in an unsanctioned league in Mindanao.

The long wait turned out to be worth it for Mbala as he was instrumental in La Salle’s finals sweep, helping the Green Archers beat Ateneo, 79-72, in Game Two on Wednesday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

“I’m coming out (three seasons) without playing. It was really hard. Coming in with the championship, it was really sweet especially we got it against Ateneo,” Mbala said.

[See La Salle crowns season to remember with sweep of Ateneo in finals]

Mbala tallied 18 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in the title-clinching win, including a follow-up dunk off a Jeron Teng miss to help the Green Archers maintain their lead in the late stretch of the match.

“This is one of the most memorable finals I’ve been through,” he added.

With his size and built, Mbala became the most dominant player among this year’s batch, winning the MVP crown in runaway fashion. It was also Mbala who was the biggest reason why the Green Archers were the team to beat in Season 79.

Still, Mbala said this year was still a challenging one even though they only lost once all season long.

“It was still hard. People were expecting us to be good. Every time, they just didn’t came to play us, they want to beat us because we were the team to beat,” he said.

See Jeron Teng seals memorable farewell with a kiss for girlfriend]

“That was the most challenging thing. We have to find a way to step up and always improve our game and find adjustments. The guys were able to understand that we were just showing our talent but at a certain moment, you have to play as a team,” added Mbala.

Mbala also insisted that winning the MVP was the furthest from his mind as he just wanted to step up for the Green Archers.

“I was just trying my best to help my team win. That’s it. I was giving my everything.  I’m happy that they recognized my hardwork,” said Mbala.


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