In a game decided by literal inches, La Salle came through, pulling off a 80-79 escape over University of Santo Tomas in the UAAP Season 82 men’s basketball tournament, Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Green Archers heaved a huge sigh of relief after referees ruled Rhenz Abando’s desperation jumper with 1.5 seconds remaining as a two-pointer, giving them the slim one-point edge.
Andrei Caracut also made a heady play, letting the clock trickle down after throwing the ball to the back of Ira Bataller in the ensuing inbound play.
It was a big victory for La Salle, which kept itself in the Final Four race after leveling its standing to 6-6.
“As you know, the standings are really tight, and we’re happy that we kind of responded well. The players responded with urgency today,” said coach Gian Nazario.
Jamie Malonzo stepped up with his 23 points on a 3-of-4 three-point shooting. He also collected seven rebounds, three steals, and two assists.
Brandon Bates unleashed his finest performance to date with 10 points, 15 boards, and two blocks He proved himself as the perfect compliment to help the Green Archers stave off the Growling Tigers.
La Salle used a 26-point third period eruption to flip the game from a 44-37 halftime affair to a 63-54 advantage late in the canto and seize control of the match-up.
The two then took charge in the fourth quarter. Malonzo’s put-back slam pushed the Green Archers’ lead at its highest at 12, 69-57, with 7:15 remaining.
But UST showed its resiliency, forcing stops and crawling back late. Unfortunately, though, Abando stepped on the line on his gutsy long bomb, which could have knotted the score at 80 with mere seconds left.
Justine Baltazar recorded a double-double in the tune of his 14 points and 11 rebounds, while Aljun Melecio chimed in 18 points, six assists, and two boards.
Abando wound up with 19 points and four rebounds. Meanwhile, Soulemane Chabi Yo tallied 17 points and 17 boards in the defeat that sent the Growling Tigers down to 7-6.
La Salle looks to sustain its momentum when it faces the UP Fighting Maroons on Sunday, October 27, at 4:00 pm. UST looks to bounce back as it faces the now-eliminated Adamson Soaring Falcons on Saturday, October 26, at 4:00 pm. Both games take place at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.
DLSU 80 –– Malonzo 23, Melecio 18, Baltazar 14, Bates 10, Hill 5, Manuel 5, Caracut 2, Serrano 2, Bartlett 1, Lojera 0.
UST 79 — Abando 19, Chabi Yo 17, Cansino 9, Bataller 6, Subido 6, Paraiso 5, Huang 4, Nonoy 4, Ando 3, Concepcion 3, Cuajao 3, Bordeos 0.
Quarterscores: 19-24, 37-44, 63-57, 80-79.