How sweep it is!

Jeron Teng FTW! ( Photo Credit: UAAP Sports/ Arvin Lim)

Jeron Teng FTW! ( Photo Credit: UAAP Sports/ Arvin Lim)

Forty minutes. That is the amount of time in a regulation UAAP basketball game. For 39 minutes and 45 seconds, Jeron Teng struggled. He was saddled with foul trouble and never got his rhythm. During the first 39 minutes and 45 seconds of action, Jeron was just 1/4 from the field, and he continued to struggle from the line as well, making just 4/9 from the charity stripe. He only grabbed one rebound and he just played 21 minutes. But then, sometimes, in life, it’s all about the end result, right?

Jeron Teng made the game-winning shot with 1.9 seconds to go as the De La Salle Green Archers defeated the Ateneo Blue Eagles, 66-64, in front of over 16,000 rabid fans inside Smart-Araneta Coliseum. Kiefer Ravena’s last second heave did not even come close, as La Salle swept Ateneo in the elimination round for the first time since 2005! That was eight years ago! Eight! Before Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! Think about that for a moment…

The game was close from start to finish. Both teams started the game with so much energy and passion and the first quarter ended with a 16-13 lead for the Ateneans. Ateneo led by as many as nine points during the second quarter. Just when it seems that Ateneo can lead by double-figures to end the half, La Salle made a last minute rally, highlighted by a last second buzzer-beating, long three-point shot by “Vosotres.”

Now, the stage is set for a dramatic fourth quarter! Unlike the previous three quarters, La Salle took control for most of the fourth quarter. But the Ateneans just won’t go away. I said during my pregame that the team that can control their emotions could win this game. And during the crunch time, Ateneo coach Bo Perasol failed to control his emotions. Perasol went nuts when the calls did not go their way. He got into the referees’ faces, leaving the referees no choice but to call a technical foul on him.

With the score 63-59 in favor of the Archers, Ryan Buenafe made a crucial three-pointer to cut the lead to one! So typical of Buenafe, struggle the whole game then make a clutch basket. After a Jeron Teng split free throws, Kiefer Ravena drove strong to the basket and made another clutch shot to tie the game at 64.

Coach Juno Sauler mapped out an isolation play for Jeron, with Vosotros waiting in the wings in case of a double team and Sauler told Jeron to make the right decision. With the rookie Newsome guarding the sophomore Jeron, one on one, and with the Ateneans not wanting to double-team Jeron because of fear that it would open up La Salle’s shooters, Teng drove hard to the basket and made the biggest shot of his young career to give the Archers its fourth straight victory.

Looking back, maybe it would have been better if the veteran Buenafe guarded Jeron during the last play for the Eagles. Buenafe is a very smart player and he defended Jeron well during crunch time of last year’s Final Four.

After the game, with the La Salle crowd still celebrating, Coach Perasol got involved in an altercation with a La Salle alumnus. Words were exchanged and the bouncers and his own players had to restrain Perasol to prevent him from attacking the La Salle crowd.

Norman Black never did such a thing during his several years as the coach of the Ateneo. Perasol coached against Ginebra in a full seven-game finals series and I am surprised that he would want a fight after a few light-hearted ribbing.

However. we can also look at this incident on a different perspective. As I’ve said countless of times, I miss the old rivalry. The players and the fans are now too friendly towards each other. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want any fistfights or broken car windshields like in the old days but a few ribbing, taunting and trash talking would be good for the rivalry.

With Ateneo and La Salle now in equal footing talent-wise, unlike in the previous years when Ateneo just dominated La Salle, we can now see the rivalry become as hot as it was during the early to mid part of the 2000’s when current professional players like Mac Cardona, Joseph Yeo and Ren Ren Ritualo battled the likes of Enrico Villanueva, LA Tenorio and Larry Fonacier. This might be the last La Salle-Ateneo game of the year but expect a much more heated rivalry in the years to come!

Review: Keys to the Game

1. Dominate the paint!

I expected Arnold Van Opstal, Jason Perkins and Norbert Torres to combine for 40 points, 26 rebounds and a few blocks. That didn’t happen. The trio only combined for 23 points, 21 rebounds and three blocks.

I said that two of them would end with a double-double but only one of them did. Perkins was the lone bright spot for the La Salle bigs in this game as he scored 13 points and grabbed 15 big rebounds while the twin towers of AVO and Norbert Torres struggled. AVO only had four points and three rebounds while Torres only had six points and three rebounds.  I expect the twin towers to bounce back in the next game, especially against a Charles Mammie-less UE squad.

2.  Limit the Phenom

A check mark for this one!

Kiefer Ravena was limited to only 12 points in a miserable 4/13 from the field including just 1/6 from rainbow territory. He also made just 3/8 free throws. However, even though Ravena struggled during most of the game, he delivered during clutch hitting a tough three and making a game-tying drive with just 15 seconds to go in the game. Can Ravena carry the Eagles to the Final Four? I guess we all have to wait and see!

3.  FREE THROWS

An ‘X’ mark, of course!

La Salle shot miserably from the line, making just 18 of their 28 attempts. Jeron Teng once again struggled from the line as he only made four of his nine attempts. I think La Salle can make it to the Final Four even with this kind of shooting, but the Finals? Not so sure.

The Great

Jeron Teng’s game winner!

The Good

Almond Vosotros top scored for La Salle with 19 big points and six rebounds. LA Revilla played perhaps his best game in two years, scoring 11 points while grabbing seven rebounds. With the twin towers struggling, Jason Perkins stepped up with another monster performance of 13 points and 15 rebounds. In the absence of Thomas Torres, Kib Montalbo stepped up – the spitfire from Bacolod did a good job as the back up quarterback for the Archers, giving LA Revilla enough time to rest.

The Bad

Free Throws! As usual! DLSU only made 18/28 from the line. Also, La Salle struggled from the three-point line, making only 4/18 from the rainbow area. I have said this before, the three-point shot is like a pretty girl, easy to fall in love with but it can easily break your heart as well. La Salle needs to play wisely in the last few games of the eliminations to assure itself of a Final Four slot and even a possible twice to beat advantage.

Final Thoughts

La Salle is now at the solo third place with a 7-4 record, just half a game behind the second placers, the skidding FEU Tamaraws. A win over the Charles Mammie-less UE will give La Salle a share of second place. La Salle should not be overconfident as Roi Sumang is, well, Roi Sumang. ‘Nuff said!

La Salle is good enough to win its remaining games then win the championship but there is also a slight chance that La Salle might collapse and not make the Final Four at all! It is still a six-way race to the title and a six-way race to the Final Four. Such is the parity of the league. I sound like a broken record, but it is true! Is this the last La Salle-Ateneo game of the year? Maybe, maybe not, but if it was, what a way to end another chapter to this compelling rivalry!