Who will be the greatest?

The best two words in local college hoops: GAME THREE! The Green and White takes on the Gold and Black one last time, this time for all the marbles, as the De La Salle Green Archers take on the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers in the deciding game three of the UAAP Season 76 Men’s Basketball Finals this Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena. La Salle suffered from championship jitters during game one, getting a slow start and faltering down the stretch allowing UST to escape with a 73-72 win. But La Salle bounced backed during game two and was able to tie the series and force a game three in a convincing 77-70 win. La Salle controlled game two from start to finish, posting several double-digit leads as La Salle exploited its height advantage. La Salle is considered as the favorites for game three, but anything can happen, and a wounded tiger is a dangerous one as UST is 3-0 in do-or-die games this year, beating Ateneo for the last Final Four slot then overcoming NU’s twice-to-beat advantage by beating the Bulldogs twice. La Salle won their only do-or-die game of the year so far (game two of the Finals). Something has to give, as one of this teams will lose for the first time in a do-or-die game, and it would be a very painful one for sure.

Who will win the last UAAP battle of the Teng Brothers? (Photo Credit: KC Cruz/ gmanetwork)

Keys to the Game

 Continue to dominate the Rebounding, Offensive Rebounding, and Second Chance Opportunities categories!

During Game Two, La Salle dominated the Rebounding, Offensive Rebounding and Second Chance Opportunities categories. La Salle outrebounded UST 57-39. Arnold Van Opstal led the way with 14 rebounds, Norbert Torres and even LA Revilla had 10 rebounds each while Jeron Teng added nine boards. DLSU also dominated the Offensive Rebounding department, 27-10 as Norbert Torres led the way with seven offensive rebounds. This led to 18 second chance points for the Archers compared to only six second chance points for the Tigers. It is imperative for La Salle to continue to dominate the Rebounding, Offensive Rebounding and Second Chance Opportunities departments in order to control Game Three. I expect the Archers to gang rebound and to continue to crash the boards. I expect Arnold Van Opstal, Jason Perkins, Norbert Torres and Jeron Teng to have big rebounding games for DLSU.

 Defense

 Jeric Teng exploded for 28 points during game two but that was the only bright spot for UST. Karim Abdul only scored a quiet 13 points, while Aljon Mariano chipped in nine points but that is pretty much it for the Tigers. Game one hero Kevin Ferrer was limited to only six points. Shea Sherrif only scored six points. Sharpshooter Clark Bautista scored only six points while Eduardo Daquioag did not even score a single point. Offensively, Aljon Mariano has been absent so far in this series, averaging only 5.5 points per game while we all know he can score around 14 points on any given game. Clark Bautista can also contribute a barrage of three pointers and end up in double-digits while Ed “Pader” Daquioag proved during the elimination round that he could step up when needed. Any of this players can help Jeric Teng win his first, and last, UAAP title so the Archers needs to continue to play good team defense against UST. I expect Jeric Teng to explode once again in game three. After all, it is his last UAAP game no matter what and I won’t be surprise if he scores around 20 points. If only two or three Tigers can end up in double-digits, while limiting the role players of UST to just around four points each, La Salle can win the game.

 Free Throws

 I used “Free Throws” as one of my “keys to the game” countless times during the season. This is my last pre-game of the season. So I figured, what the heck, might as well use it one last time. Free Throw shooting is one of La Salle’s biggest weakness this season. Some would say it is the only weakness, or at least the only major weakness, of the team this year. We have several talented guards, tall and talented front court players, and whatever championship jitters La Salle had during game one was negated with the game two performance. But we are a bad free throw shooting team. La Salle was able to win games this year despite a poor free throw shooting performance. La Salle shot only 15 of 24 from the line during game two but still won convincingly. If La Salle went around 22 of 24 from the line last Saturday, it would have been a blow out!  Can La Salle fix their free throw problems and win game three? Or can La Salle win Game Three despite poor free throw shooting? Or will free throw shooting be the downfall of La Salle this Saturday? We have to wait and see!

 Final Thoughts

 This is it folks! After months of watching intense and emotional basketball games, after all the on-court and off-court dramas, we are down to just one game! After five long years, we will finally crown a new champion this Saturday. UST last won the title during 2006 while La Salle last won it last back in 2007. One team’s drought will finally end. This is also the last “Battle of the Teng Brothers”. So far, they split all their UAAP games, 3 victories each, and Game Three will also decide their own personal “tie-breaker”. How fitting for Jeric Teng to end his UAAP career against his own brother. Will Jeric Teng end his college career on a high note? Or will Jeron Teng start a new La Salle dynasty? PUSO, PRIDE, PALABAN versus ANIMO and HEIGHT. I think La Salle’s height advantage will play a huge part for game three. UST just can’t out rebound La Salle.  La Salle will dominate the boards and create second chance opportunities, and that would frustrate the Tigers. It’s midnight now for the Cinderella team. Thomasians claims that maibabalik na ang korona sa Espana. But I disagree. The crown is going home to Taft where it belongs. La Salle will win the UAAP championship!