De La Salle University is raring to bounce back after absorbing a heartbreaking 72-73 loss against University of Santo Tomas (UST) in Game 1 of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 76 men’s basketball best-of-three championship series.
La Salle head coach Juno Sauler vowed to come back strong in Game 2 scheduled on Saturday at the Araneta Coliseum.
“We couldn’t get ourselves going early [in Game 1]. We just have to make sure they don’t do that again in the next game,” said Sauler, a rookie coach who replaced current Petron Blaze Boosters mentor Gee Abanilla.
The Green Archers converted four of the 13 attempts in the three-point area while the Growling Tigers made seven of 17 with Kevin Ferrer nailing five and Jeric Teng hitting the other two.
“It’s going to be hard when the opponent shoots better than you. The 5/8 shooting from Ferrer killed us. We got a good shot. Good look from almond. It’s just breaks of the game,” stressed Sauler.
It was a close game that saw six deadlocks and seven lead changes. UST made 26 in the two-point field goal while La Salle has 27. The Growling Tigers hauled down 43 rebounds compared to the Green Archers’ 44. They both managed to get 14 points in the free throw line.
UST is just a win away of claiming its 19th title in the league and matching the current record of Far Eastern University.
FEU holds the most number of championship titles with 19 followed by UST (18), University of the East (18), Ateneo de Manila University (8), La Salle (7), University of the Philippines (2), Adamson University (1) and National University (1).
Also in the UAAP history since the best-of-three finals format was introduced in 1994, 15 of 19 teams (or nearly 80 percent) that won in Game 1 went on to win the championships.
The Growling Tigers last won the UAAP crown in 2006 at the expense of Ateneo de Manila University, 2-1 (72-73, 87-71, 76-74).
UST and La Salle last met in the finals in Season 62 in 1999. UST also took the Game 1 (62-60) but La Salle was triumphant in Game 2 (81-74) and Game 3 (78-75 overtime) to win the crown.
That victorious La Salle team was headed by team captain Francis Zamora, now the San Juan City vice mayor, and Philippine Basketball Association players Don Allado, Renren Ritualo and Dino Aldeguer.