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La Salle escapes State U, keeps Final Four chase alive

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The De La Salle University Green Archers needed to take this game. On the other end, the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons had nothing to lose.

With an inexperienced UP squad up six points with 7:02 remaining, La Salle relied on their end game experience to make the necessary stops to keep their Final Four hopes alive in a 72-68 win Wednesday afternoon at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The La Salle Green Archers, playing with a sense of urgency was excellent defensively in the opening minutes of the game as they limited the hosts to just four points in the first nine minutes of the game. The huge starting five of Larry Muyang, Prince Rivero, Jeron Teng, and Joshua Torralba utilized their size and length to impose their will on UP in a 19-4 start. A Dave Moralde jumper closed the quarter with La Salle up 19-6. However, Teng hurt his back after a bad fall in the first quarter but returned to the game.

The Fighting Maroons, with nothing to lose in the game, intensified their defense in the second quarter. They were able to limit the Green Archers to just eight points in the second stanza whiel Moralde gained his shooting touch to lead the UP comeback. The former Red Lion scored eight points in the quarter while Paul Desiderio had four to slowly chop the La Salle lead. With a minute to go before entering the break, Cebuano rookie Pio Longa was able to knockdown a three that cut the once 15 point lead to just a solitary point entering the second half, 27-26.

Senior Agu Amar converted on a jumper to start the third canto that gave UP their first taste of the lead. Missed free throws by Rivero then paved the way for a quick layup by Jett Manuel. After a split by Teng on the stripe, Muyang made the rookie mistake on fouling Moralde on a three-pointer that extended the UP lead to four, 32-28. However, after making the free throws, the officials halted the game due to a technicality. After a ten minute delibration, it was deemed that Longa’s shorts was different from what the other UP players were wearing – the oblation logo was on the right side of his shorts rather than the left. This resulted to a technical foul being assessed on the UP bench.

After the mishap, the two teams then fought back and forth with UP holding a four point lead midway through the third after a Desiderio rainbow. The Green Archers then switched their defense from a 2-3 zone to a full court press. The press led to a quick 8-0 run in just a minute and six seconds that gave La Salle a four point lead. With 1:37 left in the quarter, Longa was able to punch in his second three-pointer of the game that tied the game. Conversions by Manuel and Diego Dario closed out the quarter with UP holding a 52-49 lead to enter the final quarter.

The Fighting Maroons were able to extend their lead to six with 7:02 left in the game. Just as it was looking that the hosts were gaining the momentum, Prince Rivero led a game-breaking rally that altered the game. The Green Archers went on a 12-0 spurt capped by a Teng find to the trigger to the rally Rivero. Turnovers and one-on-one plays also led to the three minute drought. However, at the 3:18 mark of the quarter, Torres hurt his right ankle and had to be taken out. He eventually returned to the game a minute later. Free throws by Vito ended the La Salle run while an and-one play by spitfire guard Diego Dario cut the lead to just four, 69-65, with 1:24 left. After a string of turnovers by the Taft cagers and a split by Manuel on the stripe, Amar forced Caracut to a turnover with 31.6 remaining with the La Salle lead just three, 69-66. However, lack of end game composure by the Maroons led to turnovers for UP that included two inbound violations. Free throws by Teng sealed the game 72-68.

“It’s the sense of urgency of the players that showed in this game,” La Salle head coach Juno Sauler said after the game. “Even with Jeron and Thomas hurt they still played. Great heart showed not just by the two but by all the boys,” he added.

Teng, who led the Archers in scoring with 20 points on 7/18 shooting, recalled that he told his teammates that everything is not yet over for their season. “I told my teammates to take these last two games one game at a time.”

Thomas Torres was able to grab a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds while Smart Elite ambassador Prince Rivero had a monster double-double with 18 points and 16 boards. “Prince has been very solid for us,” Sauler said. “He’s the most consistent big man we have.”

For the Maroons, Jett Manuel scored 15 points on 7/16 shooting from the field and 7/11 shooting from the stripe. Dave Moralde had 14 points while Paul Desiderio added 10.

The Fighting Maroons shot just 32% from the field compared to 39% from the Green and White. Even when the Archers committed more turnovers than the Maroons, 19-16, the Taft cagers were able to convert off of it more in scoring 18 turnover points compared to just nine by UP.

Both teams will play their final game of the season on Wednesday, November 18 with La Salle (6-7) facing the FEU Tamaraws at 4:00pm while the UP Fighting Maroons (3-10) face-off against the UE Red Warriors at 2:00pm. Games will be played at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

The Scores:
DLSU (72) – Teng 20, Rivero 18, Torres 11, Torralba 8, Caracut 7, Perkins 4, Langston 2, Muyang 2, Go 0.
UP (68) – Manuel 15, Moralde 14, Desiderio 10, Dario 9, Longa 8, Amar 6, Gallarza 2, Kone 2, Vito 2, Harris 0, Jaboneta 0, Juruena 0, Lim 0.
Quarterscores: 19-6, 27-26, 49-52, 71-68.

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