Against an undermanned team desperate to keep their flickering semifinal hopes alive, it was a couple of familiar faces that gave La Salle an offensive lift when they needed it most: Jeron Teng and Arnold Van Opstal. And with the team nursing a slim lead late in the game, it was their stifling defense that forced costly miscues on the part of their opponents and allowed them to walk away with the win.
In the payoff period, Teng scored nine of his game-high 26 points, all on free throws, while Van Opstal had seven of his 11 markers as the Green Archers defeated the UST Growling Tigers, 67-60, in a rematch of last year’s thrilling Finals earlier today at the MOA Arena. The win gives the Archers their ninth win against three losses, assuring them of at least a playoff for a final four slot, while pushing the Tigers to the brink of elimination from final four contention.
Down 58-54 with a little over four minutes remaining in the game after a lay-up by Tiger Ed Daquioag, the Archers found Van Opstal inside for a basket. Two charities by Teng allowed La Salle to tie the game, but UST’s Karim Abdul was fouled on the other end and canned his own free throws to give the Tigers their last lead, 60-58.
Van Opstal scored another bucket for La Salle as they knotted the count at 60, a split at the line by Teng shoved La Salle ahead for the first time since the third period, 61-60. And it was during this time when the Archers asserted their might on the defensive end, forcing three crucial turnovers on UST.
Kib Montalbo deflected a wayward pass by Daquioag to give La Salle possession, though they were unable to convert. But in the ensuing UST possession Abdul was bothered by the defense of Teng and Norbert Torres, forcing a travelling violation. Teng, who was fouled with 25.8 ticks remaining, sank two more free throws for a 63-60 La Salle lead.
The eighth and final turnover for the Tigers in the quarter occurred when Aljon Mariano lost the handle as he drove past a phalanx of white shirts, with Teng coming up with the steal. Teng, fouled once more, missed both free throws, but Jason Perkins recovered the ball, and Teng was fouled once more, this time with 12.5 seconds left. This time, he made both charities to give the Archers a five-point advantage and ice the game.
Despite the win, however, the game was anything but a cakewalk for the Archers, who found themselves down almost the entire game against a feisty UST side that waxed hot from distance early on and kept them from pounding the ball at the post.
A quick start by the Tigers allowed them to grab an early lead, 14-9, after a triple by Daquioag, but baskets by Torres and Perkins and free throws by Teng and Van Opstal allowed the Archers to draw to within, a solitary point, 16-17, at the end of the first ten minutes of play.
La Salle opened up the second quarter with an 8-2 run, anchored by two triples from Julian Sargent and a jumper by Montalbo, which handed them a 24-19 lead, which was then the game’s biggest. It seemed that the Archers got their bearings and were looking to pull away.
But Abdul responded with five quick points of his own, and after a basket by Mariano and a trifecta from Kent Lao, it was UST who found themselves up by five, 31-26. Baskets by Vosotros and Montalbo allowed the Archers to come to within a single point, but another booming triple by Lao gave UST a four-point lead at the turn.
Teng, who was saddled with three personal fouls during the second quarter, started the scoring in the third for the Archers. They finally wrested the lead after an and-one basket by Van Opstal, and even bore a 43-38 advantage late in the third, but this time, it was Kim Lo
who took charge for the Tigers, allowing them to take a 47-46 edge heading into the fourth.
Teng added seven rebounds and two assists to his 26 points, though he had five of La Salle’s 18 turnovers. Van Opstal also had seven boards for the Archers, who got 18 points from their bench: 11 from Van Opstal and seven for Sargent.
For the Tigers, it was Daquioag and Lao who played the game of their lives, with both players scoring career highs (Daquioag with 19, Lao with 14 on four triples). Abdul added 14 boards and 13 points for UST, who is in danger of missing the Final Four for the first time since 2011 if NU wins their game against UP tomorrow.
The Archers committed 18 turnovers, but only eight of those came after halftime. The Tigers, who ran out of the steam in the endgame, committed eight of their 17 miscues in the fourth and 13 of them in the second half. La Salle also shot more free throws than their opponents, 23-of-39 (59%) against 12-of-17 (70%), while also outrebounding them 49-41.
Mad Dash to the Finish Line (Final Four Race): The Archers (9-3) will need to win one more game for them to officially qualify for the Final Four. They will need to win both their remaining games (this Wednesday, Sept 10, vs. UE, and next Saturday, Sept 13, vs. the NU Bulldogs) to contend for one of the twice-to-beat advantage slots in the Final Four, while also keeping tabs on the remaining games of league-leading FEU (10-2) and Ateneo (10-3).
Notes: Louie Vigil did not suit up for UST after incurring two unsportsmanlike fouls during the team’s last game against Ateneo;
DLSU- 67- Teng-26, Van Opstal-11, Montalbo-8, Torres-7, Sargent-7, Perkins-4, Vosotros-4, Rivero-0, Tratter-0, Bolick-0
UST- 60- Daquioag-19, Lao-14, Abdul-13, Mariano-6, Lo-5, Gayosa-3, Sherriff-0, Subido-0, Basibas-0, Pe-0, Macasaet-0
Quarterscores: 16-17, 30-34, 46-47, 67-60