With a lot at stake, La Salle proved hungrier and steadier in the stretch and held off equally tough University of Santo Tomas.
Showing steely nerves in the crunch, the Green Archers scored a 69-64 victory over the Growling Tigers to gain a piece of the lead and keep their bid for a twice-to-beat edge in the Final Four alive in the UAAP Season 76 men’s basketball tournament at the MOA Arena.
Ace wingman Jeron Teng delivered again with 19 points, including eight in the payoff period, while two other teammates had at least 11 markers as La Salle completed its sweep on the second round that jacked up its record to 10-4, tying National U and Far Eastern U at the top in the process.
Aside from avenging a painful 58-63 overtime defeat in their initial meeting at the opener last June 29, the Green Archers also forged a knockout match with the Tamaraws for the second semifinals incentive, with the Bulldogs having bagged the first bonus owing to a superior quotient.
Meanwhile, UST saw its three-game winning streak come to a halt, slipping into a tie with reigning five-time titlist Ateneo at the fourth spot with identical 7-6 records.
The Growling Tigers face the Blue Eagles on Sept. 18, with the fourth and final semis berth on the line.
Karim Abdul led UST with another double-double outing of 18 points and 12 rebounds.
The Main Man: Once again, Jeron Teng showed he really has what it takes to deliver for La Salle.
After being grounded in the third canto, the 6-foot-2 sophomore came up big in the last 10 minutes of play, pumping in eight of his game-high 19 points spiked by a huge floater that virtually sealed the deal for the Green Archers 66-59 going to the last 54.2 seconds.
Jeron also had 11 rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block while outplaying his older brother Jeric, who only had 10 points on 4-of-16 shooting from the field.
Honorable Mention: Pitted against UST counterpart Karim Abdul, Norbert Torres of La Salle held his ground.
The 6-foot-6 Fil-Canadian finished with a double-double of 14 points and 16 rebounds. He also sank a crucial floater and split his charities that kept the Tigers at bay while steadying the ship for the Archers.
Game Turning Point: After nearly blowing a big 34-48 lead, La Salle got the job done with a decisive 7-2 run behind the likes of Norbert Torres, LA Revilla and Jeron Teng, whose floater proved to be the dagger into the hearts of Tigers as the Archers took a seven-point cushion inside the final minute.
They Said It:
La Salle coach Juno Sauler: “We just keep working on the things we need to work on and improve on it. It (the match against FEU) will be exciting for everyone. We just have to keep on improving in our daily practices and be ready against FEU.”
La Salle forward Jeron Teng: “FEU is a tough team. We adjusted in the second round and beat them. I know Coach will come up with a better game plan.”
La Salle (69) – Teng 19, N. Torres 14, Vosotros 11, Perkins 7, Van Opstal 6, Revilla 6, T. Torres 3, Salem 3, Reyes 0, Montalbo 0, De La Paz 0.
UST (64) – Abdul 18, Mariano 16, Teng 10, Bautista 6, Sheriff 5, Ferrer 5, Lo 2, Daquioag 2, Pe 0, Faundo 0.
Quarterscores: 15-13, 39-30, 53-45, 69-64.