ARANETA COLISEUM, QUEZON CITY – The University of the East Red Warriors live to die another day, after outlasting the De La Salle University Green Archers, 68-66, dismantling a second half comeback from the defending champions by stealing back the lead in the last minutes of the final quarter.
A low scoring first quarter saw both teams struggle to score. La Salle’s inside unit found themselves unable to put up a fight against UE’s Charles Mammie. Seven of La Salle’s first quarter would come from freethrows. UE on the one hand would once again get much needed help from Bong Galanza, who scored six points in the quarter.
Things would only get worse for La Salle, who would be held scoreless in the first five minutes with UE bringing out their dreaded fullcourt press. The Red Warriors would dominate the first half of the quarter, completing an 8-0 run that would put the hosts up 21-13 with five minutes left on the clock. A floater from La Salle’s Almond Vosotros would put an end to the run, but back-to-back baskets from Gino Jumao-as and Renz Palma would put the Warriors up by double digits, 25-15. The defending champs would only be able to put up nine points in the quarter, and would find themselves trailing 22-36 at the end of the quarter, after shooting a miserable 5 of 26 from the field in the half.
UE’s offense however would collapse in the third quarter. The Red Warriors would be held scoreless in the first six minutes. Led by a reignited Jeron Teng, the Archers would outscore the visibly fatigued Warriors 17-7 in the quarter. A breakaway three from Julian Sargent a few seconds before the third quarter expired would narrow gap to 43-39.
The Archers would sustain momentum as the fourth quarter opened. Back-to-back baskets from rookie Prince Rivero would give the Archers the lead, 45-43 approaching the eight minute. The two teams would trade jumper after jumper in the next few minutes, but with UE’s scorers still struggling to pull together, the Archers would hold on to a double-digit lead, 61-51 with little less than four minutes remaining.
Despite giving up the lead, an undeterred UE squad would finally find a way to stop the bleeding. Spurred by second round hero Bong Galanza, the Warriors would cut the lead to one point, 60-61, approaching the last two minutes. Jeron Teng would manage to sink another basket in the next play to extend the lead to three points, but a free throw basket from Mammie and another fastbreak from Galanza would force the deadlock, 63-all with less than a minute remaining. Dan Alberto however would once more shock the crowd, in the next play, snatching the ball from Almond Vosotros en route to a fastbreak basket and a foul. Alberto would manage to sink the free throw, and with half a minute left on the clock, UE would find themselves on top once more, 66-63. Jeron Teng had the opportunity to cut the lead in the next play, but would lose the ball to Charles Mammie just under the post. UE guard Roi Sumang would be fouled after receiving the volley from Mammie, and would split the free throws to extend the lead to four, 67-63. A breakaway three from Almond Vosotros would narrow the gap to a single point with little more than one second remaining. A split free throw opportunity from Chris Javier after being fouled from the inbound would extend the lead to 68-66 and seal the game for the Warriors.
As the clock ticked zero, the mammoth UE crowd would burst into celebration, with bigman Charles Mammie receiving warm embraces from UE fans from the patron box.
Bong Galanza led UE with 21 points and 7 rebounds, a fitting follow-up to his 26-point performance in last Sunday’s win over the FEU Tamaraws. Roi Sumang also contributed 14 points and 5 steals off the bench. Jeron Teng led the Archers in scoring with 23 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists. Almond Vosotros and Julian Sargent chipped in 11 and 10 markers respectively.
When asked about the win coach Derrick had this to say, “big win for us, but we’re still not ahead.”
With the win, the Warriors need only to win in Sunday’s matchup with UST to ensure at least a playoff for fourth. The Archers on the one hand need to win against the Bulldogs next week in order to win the play-off for the number two spot. If the Archers lose, they would have to face UE again for the fourth spot.