DE La Salle University got back at University of Santo Tomas, 77-70, on Saturday to tie the UAAP men’s basketball championship series at one-game all and set up a winner-take-all showdown a week from now.
After losing Game 1 by a solitary point last Wednesday, the Green Archers played with more fire and cohesion to deny the Growling Tigers the chance of grabbing the title outright.
Game 3 will be on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Forward Jeron Teng converted 12 of his 19 points in the first half, hauled down nine rebounds and made three steals to give the Green Archers an early big lead before the halftime break.
“I was inspired by the crowd, so I did my best today. I’m happy with the result and so thankful to my teammates for giving their best too to tie this championship series,” said Jeron.
The Araneta Coliseum was packed with 23,037 fans, most of them wearing green, La Salle’s color.
La Salle’s big men made their presence felt, outrebounding the Tigers, 57-39, and posting more second chance points, 18-6.
Norbert Torres sank 16 points and added 10 rebounds and three blocks, and Arnold Van Opstal had 13 points and 14 rebounds as the Green Archers’ big men dominated the paint.
La Salle also made more assists than UST, 16-7.
“It’s a good early lead and our big guys really helped us tonight,” said La Salle first year head coach Juno Sauler, who also drew 11 points from Almond Vosotros and nine from LA Revilla. “It will be a tough Game 3, so we must be prepared.”
La Salle set up a 17-point lead in the second quarter, 36-19, on Van Opstal’s basket with 6:16 to go. But UST narrowed the gap to 33-41 at halftime.
The Growling Tigers started strong in the second half with a 10-3 attack capped by Jeric Teng’s booming triple that cut the Green Archers’ lead to four points, 40-44, early in the third period.
But La Salle countered with a 13-2 run on the combined effort of Van Opstal and Torres.
UST center Karim Abdul, Aljon Mariano and forward Kevin Ferrer were hobbled by fouls, each collecting three at the end of third period.
La Salle coasted in the fourth quarter to seal the win on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Jeron’s older brother Jeric Teng led the Tigers with 28 points.
FEU guard Terrence Romeo was named MVP and also made it to the league’s mythical five.
Others who made the mythical five are point guard Roi Sumang of University of East, Abdul of UST, forward Jason Perkins of La Salle and National University forward Bobby Ray Parks.
Kyles Lao of UP is rookie of the year.
JOSEF T. RAMOS