Eight-time UAAP Men’s Basketball Champions.
That is what the De La Salle University Green Archers have become after edging the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers, 71-69, in the winner-take-all Game Three of the UAAP Season 76 Men’s Basketball Finals Saturday night at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The sound of the final buzzer accompanied by the sight of Karim Abdul’s overcooked game-winning baseline trifecta sent the LaSallians in euphoria as the Green Archers are crowned Kings of UAAP basketball.
Finals MVP Jeron Teng delivered his team to glory by scoring 25 points, collecting 8 rebounds and dishing out 6 assists. “Actually di lang talaga yung naglead, yung buong team talaga with the help from all the coaches, lahat kami nagtulong-tulong talaga and we pulled ourselves together pataas.” The Finals MVP humbly responded.
Almond Vosotros supported Teng’s output with his 16 markers, 5 rebounds and an assist. “Siguro na sa akin na yung confidence, then yung last shot ko sobrang dami siguro nagpray para mapasok ko yun.” Almond replied when asked about the last shot he made during the overtime period.
The mighty La Salle frontcourt trio of Norbert Torres, Arnold van Opstal and Jason Perkins also made their presence felt as they combined for 25 points, 30 rebounds and three blocks. On the other side, Abdul and Jeric Teng jointly led their team—with the duo tallying 50 of UST’s 69 points.
Both teams started relentlessly, not willing to being on the back foot early on. The first 14 points were evenly split by the two teams but a 5-1 spurt placed La Salle in a slightly comfortable position. UST ended the first period with a 10-4 counter-run that was capped by a wide-open Kevin Ferrer triple four seconds before the first period ended.
A dismal second quarter saw the Green Archers in a deeper hole. With both teams missing more than making shots, it was UST that got the upper-hand. With the game close at 21-22, Jeric sniped back-to-back triples to put the Tigers ahead by seven in the middle of the second period. With only a couple of field goals made, the Archers struggled to keep up with UST, who finished the half up by eight points.
UST began the third period with an 8-1 run that brought the Thomasians ahead by as much as 15 points capped by a Jeric Teng elbow triple. La Salle was able to reduce the gap to 11 by fishing a couple of fouls and scoring from free throw charities.
Afterwards, Van Opstal and Abdul had a shootout in the low post before the Green Archers, spurred by a Jason Perkins layup, launched a 12-0 run to regain the lead at 47-46 via a Thomas Torres corner triple, before Sheak Sheriff got a lucky offensive rebound and scored on a floater to beat the buzzer and placed the Tigers’ noses back in front entering the fourth.
“I just told them to play. One of our strengths I think was running and I think in that stretch we started to push the ball when Thomas Torres also came in. And we could see some players from UST I thought I saw were tired but didn’t want to go down, we made that push and we made that run. It was the only thing I told them.” Coach Juno shared when asked about the impressive run done by the Archers in the third quarter.
Down by one at the start of the last quarter, La Salle fell behind a couple of steps as UST launched a 7-3 rally to create some room for comfort, 56-61 with just four minutes remaining. Perkins fouled Ferrer in the act of shooting, giving the Tigers a chance to stretch their lead. Ferrer, a renowned shooter, missed both his charity shots.
In the ensuing play, Jeron drew a foul from his brother Jeric plus the basket before suffering from cramps in his fall. Thomas Torres converted the bonus freethrow of Teng’s basket to cut the deficit to two points. Ferrer was fouled once more and had made both his freebies, but the Archers scored two consecutive baskets courtesy of Perkins and Jeron. Mariano levelled the score after converting both of his free throws.
With 6.1 seconds left in regulation, UST had the chance to engineer a series-ending play. Aljon Mariano was the recipient of the inbound pass and dribbled the time out before taking a buzzer-beating shot. Despite launching the ball before time expires, there were no celebrations in the UST gallery as Mariano’s shot did not hit the target, sending the game to overtime.
Both teams exhibited their sturdy defences in the overtime period, with the first bucket coming in at the 3:15 mark courtesy of Vosotros, who was left uncontested in the paint. After a few spells of empty possessions, Ferrer equalized with a contested bucket in the low post and it was followed up by a Jeric shot from the baseline that swung the momentum back to UST’s favour.
With half a minute to go, Jeron was fouled by Mariano. The sophomore was only able to make one of two, with the possession eventually going to UST. Mariano then committed a pivotal turnover by sending a pass away from Ferrer’s reach. Mariano and his teammates were left to rue the chance as Vosotros converted a baseline jumper in the last 19.7 seconds.
UST had two shots off target before Revilla was fouled by Mariano. The fourth-year player only managed to split his freebies to make it 71-69 in favour of La Salle. The second missed freethrow gave the Tigers an opportunity to extend the game or win the title.
Abdul surged forward with the ball toward the La Salle half before being obstructed by Jeron who tapped the ball away in the baseline. UST was able to draw a game-winning play with Abdul left to save the Tigers with an unusual triple that went above the rim and struck nothing but the canvas.
“It was great learning experience for me not just for me but for the whole team. Lots of lessons to be learned.” As Coach Juno sums up his entire experience as a rookie coach for this season.
La Salle 71—Teng 25, Vosotros 16, Perkins 13, van Opstal 11, T. Torres 4, N. Torres 1, Revila 1, Tampus 0, Salem 0
Santo Tomas 69—Abdul 26, Teng 24, Ferrer 7, Bautista 4, Mariano 3, Sheriff 2, Lao 2, Pe 1
Quarterscores: 16-18, 24-32, 46-47, 65-65, 71-69.