After blowing a double digit lead earlier in the game, a hardy De La Salle University Green Archers prevailed in a heated fourth quarter affair, bagging their sixth win in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament with an 88-86 win over arch-rivals Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles, in front of a crowd of over 15,000 at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Eagles, who closed the first round leading the league, struggled early in the game. Ateneo’s Kiefer Ravena was held to zero points in the first quarter, with Ateneo managing to score a dismal 10 points. La Salle’s Jeron Teng on the one hand was unstoppable in attacking the basket, sinking 15 of his 32 points to help La Salle gain the 19-10 edge entering the second period of the game.
Ravena would come alive for the Eagles in the second quarter, making up for his poor first quarter showing, by sinking 15 points and rallying the struggling Eagles to outscore their rivals 26-25 in the second quarter. The Ateneans however could not find a way to slow the Archers down, as the defending champions held on to the 44-36 edge heading into the second half.
Ateneo’s Nico Elorde would return to the court re-energized, sinking 10 of his 14 points, including two three-pointers to help the Eagles slowly hack away at La Salle’s lead. With Teng cooling down, the Eagles would finally be able to force a 61-all deadlock in the final minute. However, a late La Salle rally that produced five points would put the Archers up 66-61 to close out the quarter.
The fourth quarter opened with the two squads trading baskets, with Ateneo finally able to respond to the sweet-shooting La Salle. A fastbreak shot by Chris Newsome would give Ateneo their first taste of the lead since the first quarter, 76-75 halfway in the quarter. However, with Ravena and Elorde worn out, Ateneo would struggle in the final minutes, unable to come up big despite coming within striking distance.
A three-pointer by Julian Sargent entering the final two minutes would give the Archers an 81-77 edge, suppressing an Ateneo run that had brought the Eagles within striking distance. Though Ateneo would be able to recover, gaining possession after a jumpball violation by La Salle entering the final minute, the Eagles would continue to struggle in crunch time, with Ravena missing two baskets in the final minute. La Salle would gain a few more points thanks to Jeron Teng delivering at the free throw line. A three-pointer by Newsome would help Ateneo narrow in on the Archers with under ten seconds remaining on the clock, but with time on La Salle’s side, the defending champions would hold on the win and avenge the first round loss to their greatest rivals.
Jeron Teng led all scorers with 32 points, 21 of which he scored in the first half. Teng’s 17 free-throw baskets also helped La Salle keep the steady lead for most of the game. Jason Perkins also produced another double-double for La Salle, with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Julian Sargent and Robert Bollick, whose clutch shooting at three-point line came in handy for the Archers, scored 11 and 10 points respectively.
Kiefer Ravena had 22 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists for the Blue Eagles. Chris Newsome had 15 points and Nico Elorde had 14. Alfonso Gotladera, the former La Salle player, churned out 10 points and 15 rebounds.
La Salle and Ateneo are now currently at 6-2, a slate they share with the FEU Tamaraws, who won Sunday’s first game against NU. The Green Archers will be facing the struggling UP Fighting Maroons next Saturday, while Ateneo’s next assignment will be against the UE Red Warriors.