DE La Salle University denied University of Santo Tomas a Cinderella finish in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines men’s basketball, winning Game 3 of the finals series in overtime, 71-69, before a crowd of 23,305 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Guard Almond Vosotros sank the go-ahead jumper to push the Green Archers ahead, 70-69, with only 19 seconds left in the extra period. A free throw by shooting guard LA Revilla moments later sealed the victory for La Salle.
UST center Karim Abdul attempted a game-winning triple with two seconds left but the ball didn’t even hit the rim as the final buzzer sounded.
“It’s just the confidence of my teammates on one another,” said Vosotros, who shot 5-of-13 from the field. “I’m really happy to make that open shot. Winning the championship is very sweet.”
Jeron Teng, who was the finals Most Valuable Player, scored 25 points along with eight rebounds and six assists. Jason Perkins added 13 points and grabbed 18 rebounds as the Green Archers nailed their eighth UAAP men’s basketball title.
Six-foot-seven Arnold Van Opstal contributed 11 points along with eight rebounds and two blocks for La Salle.
“We are so thankful to win this title after all the sacrifices of our players,” said first year La Salle head coach Juno Sauler.
Abdul and Jeric Teng controlled the first 20 minutes of the game to extend an 18-16 first-quarter lead to a 32-24 balloon at the halftime break.
But the Green Archers came out firing in the third quarter, unleashing a 22-6 run, capped by Thomas Torres’ triple, to snatch the lead, 47-46.
The score stood at 65-all at the end of the regulation period.
Abdul shot 26 points and grabbed eight rebounds, while Jeric Teng added 24 points for the Growling Tigers.
Despite the loss, UST became the first No. 4 team in the UAAP to make it to the finals.
UST faced an early exit thrice this season but defied the odds by surviving a do-or-die game against reigning champion Ateneo de Manila University (82-74) in the elimination round to secure the No. 4 spot in the semfinals.
The Growling Tigers then overcame the twice-to-beat advantage of National University in the semis to reach the finals.
UST won Game 1, 73-72, but La Salle extended the series to the limit by winning Game 2 (77-70).
The last time La Salle won the title was in 2007 when it defeated University of the East.
JOSEF T. RAMOS