The De La Salle Green Archers take on the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers as the Archers wraps up their elimination round schedule this Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena. This game proves to be a historic ones as it could possibly be the last ever UAAP duel of the Teng brothers!

La Salle started the UAAP season against UST and will end their elimination round against the same team.

One team wants to have a shot at the twice-to-beat advantage. The other wants to get the last seat in the Final Four.  During their first meeting, UST defeated La Salle 63-58 in overtime as Jeric Teng exploded for 23 points while his brother Jeron Teng was limited to only 10 points. Both teams played sloppy during that game, with the action only picking up during the fourth quarter as Jason Perkins made the game tying mid-range basket to force overtime. In the extra period, UST went on to control the  period, limiting the Archers to only seven points to get the win.

The battle of the "Robo-kids",perhaps, for the last time! (Photo Credit: Paul Ryan Tan/AKTV)

The battle of the “Robo-kids” maybe for the last time in the UAAP! (Photo Credit: Paul Ryan Tan, AKTV)

A lot of things changed since then. After a hot start, UST struggled during the latter part of the first round and the early part of the second round, with their superstar Jeric Teng missing most of the season due to injury. The absence of last year’s leader, Jeric Fortuna, also proved to be costly for the Tigers as they were inconsistent without the scoring of “Tengminator”. UST was once considered as the favorites to get a twice-to-beat advantage, but now, the Tigers are just fighting and trying to claw their way for that last ticket to the Final Four dance.

After a slow 3-4 start during the first round, some critics said that La Salle won’t make it to the Final Four, or even if they did, they would just be eliminated immediately by superior competition. But, the two-week FIBA break did wonders for this young team with a new coaching staff. Right now, La Salle is the hottest team in the UAAP with a six-game winning streak and they are the lone undefeated team of the second round. La Salle now has a chance to sweep the second round and get a playoff for the twice-to-beat advantage, but first, they have to get through a UST team with their backs against the wall.

Keys to the Game:

Marquee Matchup: Battle of the Teng Brothers

Jeric exploded for 23 points during the first round meeting between the two schools. This might be the last “Battle of the Robo-Kids” and Jeric would love to beat his younger brother one last time before he turns pro next year. A lot of people expected Jeric to be a shoo-in for the mythical five and be an MVP contender for this year. Unfortunately, he battled various injuries this year, and has only played five games so far. This is Jeric’s last year and he would love to lead UST to the Final Four and beyond.

After a slow start, Jeron is finally getting his groove. The “sophomore slump” has bitten “Tengsanity” as he is struggling with his shooting and shot selection during the season. But he has been playing well the last few games, especially during crunch time, with his game-winner against Ateneo being one of the seasons top plays for sure. Last year, the Teng brothers split their season-battle and Jeron would love to even things out before Jeric declares for the draft. I expect big games from both brothers this Saturday, as they would try to give their respective schools the Final Four standing that they expect. If the brothers cancel each other out, or better yet, if Jeron can outshine his brother, I will give the check mark for this key to the game.

Win the battle of the “big guys”

Much of the storyline would obviously be about the Teng brothers, but there will be another interesting battle in this game. First, lets talk about the centers. The Twin Towers of La Salle have been inconsistent this season After a good first round, AVO (9.5 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game) has been struggling in the second round while Norbert Torres (6.5 points per game 7.7 rebounds per game) only had a few good games this year. For the Tigers, Karim Abdul has stepped up with a double-double average of 15.5 points per game and 12.4 rebounds per game.

For the forwards, Jason Perkins is the consistent “big guy” for La Salle this year, with near double-double averages of 13.2 points per game and 9.7 rebounds per game, definitely not bad for the undersized (at least height wise) rookie power forward. Speaking of power forwards who are quite undersized, Aljon Mariano has been playing well for the Tigers, averaging 13 points per game and 7.4 rebounds per game. Another forward for the Tigers, Kevin Ferrer, stepped up due to the absence of Jeric Teng, averaging 12.7 points per game and 8.2 rebounds per game. The numbers of these three forwards are very near to each other. Assuming the UAAP decides only one between Abdul or Mbe can make it to the mythical five because they are both centers, there is a good chance that one of these three forwards can make it to the Mythical five, giving this game an extra element.

Play consistent for 40 minutes

During the past two games, La Salle let UE and then NU control most of the game before La Salle charged ahead during the clutch. In this game, La Salle should take control of the match early on and control the pace of the game for 40 muntes. The last thing La Salle needs is to develop bad habits going into the Final Four and playing inconsistent ball is a pretty bad habit.

Final Thoughts and Predictions

Remember during the first round when La Salle played NU when Emmanuel Mbe made a “garbage” short basket in the dying seconds of the game? As it turns out, that basket gave them the superior quotient and they are the only team assured of the immediate twice-to-beat advantage. But, going to a virtual best of three with an FEU team that La Salle can matchup well is not necessarily a bad thing, especially when you consider the inconsistent 3-4 card of La Salle during the first round. This will be an emotional game for both teams and expect a big crowd to support their respective teams. La Salle is on a six-game winning streak, but if they lose the last game of the eliminations, they lose a chance at the twice-to-beat, and many are saying that given the parity of the competition, the twice-to-beat advantage is necessary for a Finals trip, as it would be very hard to beat NU or FEU two in a row in a semi-finals setting.

We have seen countless classic La Salle-UST battles over the years. The several UST over La Salle championship battles during the early 90’s during the 4-peat years of UST, the Dino Aldeguer three point shot to force overtime during the 1999 championship victory of the Archers over the Tigers, the Maui Villanueva buzzer beating tip-in a few years back during 2008. And of course, the emotional and “made for TV” battles of the Teng brothers the past two years. Expect another classic battle between these two proud schools this Saturday.

I see La Salle taking this one (and get a play off battle with FEU for the twice-to beat advantage), making the Ateneo-UST match next Wednesday a do-or-die match for the last Final Four slot!