The championship rematch turned into a repeat performance. The DLSU Green Archers bucked another rash of injuries and notched their 5th consecutive victory, 83-70, pulling away late from their Season 76 Finals opponents, the reeling UST Growling Tigers. Jeron Teng led the banged-up Archers with a stat sheet-stuffing 22 points, 6 boards and 5 assists. Aljon Mariano continued his hot streak for the back-sliding Tigers, scoring 20 points on 47% shooting. Teng, along with Jason Perkins (15 points, 9 rebounds) and rookie Prince Rivero (12 points, 8 rebounds) were pressed into extra action after early injuries side-lined top centre Norbert Torres and key rotation cog Kib Montalbo. DLSU’s 5th straight win after a 0-2 start puts them near the head of the pack, while UST’s back-to-back losses holds them back at 3-3.
The opening salvo was extremely competitive, as Teng and UST’s sharpshooting Louie Vigil traded shots. Teng would lead the La Salle charge with 7 quick points in the quarter, putting the Taft-based ballers ahead by 6, 10-4, early. Vigil scored a cool 6 points of his own in the period, a necessity with Growling Tiger tower of power Karim Abdul wilting under the pressure of DLSU’s imposing frontline. Abdul’s 0/5 FGs in the first quarter were a testament to the bruising battle between him and Norbert Torres.
Norbert Torres would end up playing no other part in the game, as a scuffle for the ball midway through the period sent the big man to the lockers. A cut on his hand would require stitches and his participation in the contest. With the ailing Arnold Van Opstal dressed in civilian clothes from the outset, DLSU Head Coach Juno Sauler was forced to hand extended minutes to undersized rookie Prince Rivero. UST capitalized on his absence, as Vigil would go on a tear in the second, knocking down consecutive threes in a stretch that gave UST the lead late, 35-32. The Archer’s Almond Vosotros would silence the raucous Tigers fans with an instant response from downtown. The two teams would have to settle for a 35-35 tie as the half-time buzzer sounded.
DLSU’s snake-bitten roster would suffer another blow to start the third period, as reserve guard Kib Montalbo would pull his calf muscle while battling for a rebound. With La Salle’s backcourt thinned, seldom-used Green Archers Robert Bolick and Julian Sargent stepped up to the court. The tactical shift also compelled Sauler to slide Jeron Teng defensively over to UST’s big men. The formation change also freed Aljon Mariano from Teng’s attention, allowing the Growling Tigers star to punish La Salle with 8 3rd quarter points. The inexperienced Prince Rivero, struggling with the bigger UST frontcourt, picked up his 4th foul, further complicating DLSU’s situation. Despite all this, it was the Green Archers who began to rise above the Tigers, as reserves Bolick, Abu Tratter, and Yutien Andrada combined for 11 points. The excellent play of La Salle’s benchwarmers allowed them to weather Mariano’s offensive outburst, and carried the Archers to a 59-51 lead with only the fourth quarter to play.
It was the fourth where DLSU well and truly separated itself from UST, as the toxic combination of foul trouble and poor shooting marooned the Tigers’ hopes. Mariano and Kevin Ferrer, who had a pedestrian 11 points on 11 shots, began to toss up brick after brick. Meanwhile, a DLSU reserve was showing UST’s stars how to get things done. Julian Sargent nailed 3 of 4 shots to score 9 in the decisive period. Perkins would also contribute 5 points as DLSU began to tighten their hold on the win. Interestingly, UST would not quit until the final buzzer, pressing DLSU relentlessly even with the result no longer in doubt. The chippy play frustrated Jeron Teng, who, in response, padded his stats with an uncontested jumper as time expired. The La Salle star would refuse to shake hands with his vanquished foes post-game.