Archers on tar­get

Manila Bulletin - - Sports News - Ben Mbala (left) is ex­pected to be at the fore­front of La Salle’s at­tack in the Fi­nal Four. (Rio Delu­vio) By JEROME LAGUNZAD ALDIN AYO FRANZ PUMAREN MIGUEL TABUENA

Miguel Tabuena tries to make up for his last-hole melt­down at South­woods last Sun­day as he shoots for a sec­ond PGT Asia crown against a crack in­ter­na­tional field in the ICTSI Wack Wack Cham­pi­onship reel­ing off today at WW East course in Man­daluy­ong.

Tabuena edged An­gelo Que by one to rule the kick­off leg of the in­au­gu­ral stag­ing of the re­gion’s new­est cir­cuit, also at South­woods last Au­gust, be­fore the Rio Olympian shifted his cam­paign abroad in search of world rank­ing points.

He could’ve headed for this week’s $100,000 event a win­ner but fum­bled at the fin­ish, three-putting the par-5 18th of South­woods’ Masters course for bo­gey and miss­ing even the play­off which young Korean-Amer­i­can Micah Shin won over Thai Arnond Vong­vanij.

But the 23-year-old for­mer Philippine Golf Tour Order of Merit win­ner shrugged off the set­back, say­ing it was a “learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence” and in­stead set his sights on the next PGTA crown to be dis­puted over a tight, de­mand­ing course that re­quires ac­cu­racy more than length.

Em­pha­sis will in­deed be on pre­ci­sion with the 106-player field, in­clud­ing 43 for­eign aces from 16 coun­tries, brac­ing for four days of bat­tle of wits and nerves at one of the coun­try’s tough­est cour­ses and home to the Philippine Open.

Tabuena, in fact, will be tested right in the first round as he drew for­mer many-time PGT OOM win­ner Tony Las­cuña and PGTA Splen­dido leg cham­pion Rene Menor in the fea­tured 7:20 a.m. flight on No. 1.

They will be fol­lowed by an­other ex­plo­sive group com­posed of newly-crown OOM win­ner Clyde Mondilla, Michael Bi­bat and Thai Pasavee Lertvi­lai, whom Menor nipped in the play­off in Ta­gay­tay

In hind­sight, La Salle coach Aldin Ayo thinks the Green Archers could have an easier path to the UAAP Sea­son 80 bas­ket­ball fi­nals if they fell prey to archri­val Ate­neo the last time out, al­low­ing the Blue Ea­gles to earn an out­right fi­nals seat and set­ting up a steplad­der semi­fi­nals in­stead of the Fi­nal Four round.

If that came into fruition, de­fend­ing cham­pion La Salle, ranked at sec­ond over­all, will re­tain its twice-to-beat ad­van­tage against the win­ner of a knock­out show­down be­tween No. 3 Adam­son and No. 4 host Far East­ern Univer­sity ini­tially pen­ciled today.

“Ac­tu­ally, it will be easy for us if we lost,” said Ayo, con­fi­dent that the Green Archers will have enough time to lick their wounds, pick up the pieces and get them­selves all fired-up ei­ther against the Soar­ing Fal­cons and the Ta­ma­raws this week­end.

How­ever, Ayo knows that there’s a lot at stake es­pe­cially when La Salle rekin­dles its ri­valry with Ate­neo.

“Since it's La Salle and Ate­neo, last Septem­ber.

Mondilla, win­ner of four legs in the PGT, is ac­tu­ally gun­ning for a sec­ond straight PGTA ti­tle af­ter nip­ping Bi­bat and Korean am­a­teur Tom Kim at Riviera, also last Septem­ber, be­fore the cir­cuit, put up by ICTSI and or­ga­nized by Pilip­inas Golf Tournaments, Inc. took a two-month break.

Justin Quiban, who also turned in an im­pres­sive joint fifth place ef­fort at South­woods last Sun­day, is also fan­cied to con­tend this week along with fel­low young guns Jo­bim Car­los, Ira Alido and Keanu Jahns. we're not go­ing to back down, we're not go­ing to hold back. We’re just go­ing to com­pete,” he said.

That’s ex­actly what the Green Archers did when they mounted a strong fight­back from a 12-point deficit early in the fi­nal pe­riod and turned things around in the last 2:20 of play be­hind a telling 10-to-noth­ing windup that left the Blue Ea­gles stunned.

The come-from-be­hind vic­tory en­abled La Salle to com­plete its se­v­engame sweep of the sec­ond round and earn an­other proof that it is re­gain­ing its deadly form of old feared by many, in­clud­ing Ate­neo.

“I think we're in a very good spot be­cause we're peak­ing on the right time,” said Ayo. “And the play­ers have been very, very re­spon­si­ble in terms of their com­mit­ment to our goal.”

Fore­most among them is reign­ing back-to-back league MVP Ben Mbala, who dished out a mon­ster per­for­mance of 28 points, 19 re­bounds, six steals and as many blocks, prac­ti­cally do­ing a lit­tle bit of ev­ery­thing like what is ex­pected from him.

Shifty guard Ricci Rivero, who made it to the Myth­i­cal Team for the first time, came up big down the stretch where he fired 12 of his 21 points while vet­eran guard Kib Mon­talbo bounced back from a for­get­table show­ing the last time out by hit­ting the go-ahead floater with 40.3 sec­onds to play.

Their com­bined ex­ploits, cou­pled with their col­lec­tive poise un­der im­mense pres­sure put on by the erst­while un­flap­pable Blue Ea­gles, were clearly a sight to be­hold for Ayo af­ter en­dur­ing a rough-and-tum­ble ride in the first round.

“There were lots of dis­trac­tions in the first round. But we were able to over­come them, and we were able to fo­cus when the sec­ond round them. It's just be­ing fo­cused and be­ing com­mit­ted to the ob­jec­tive, which is to win the cham­pi­onship,” he said.

Ayo also did his part to fire up the Green Archers af­ter he threw his black jacket in sheer frus­tra­tion as they stared at a 69-76 deficit fol­low­ing a wild se­quence that ended with Blue Ea­gles for­ward Vince To­lentino scor­ing a lay-up with 2:23 to play.

Ayo should be ea­ger to do the same thing on the Soar­ing Fal­cons, han­dled by for­mer La Salle men­tor Franz Pumaren who pre­vi­ously steered the Green Archers to five UAAP crowns.

“It will be a dog­fight,” said Ayo. “For sure, they’re go­ing to pre­pare against us. Our last game in the sec­ond round was close, it was de­cided less than a minute or two min­utes. So for sure it will be dif­fi­cult for us. We’re go­ing to pre­pare against them.”

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