We are (triple tied for) number one!

Mr. Clutch! (Photo Credit: Rappler)

Mr. Clutch! (Photo Credit: Rappler)

Down by nine points with five minutes to go in the fourth, it seemed like the NU Bulldogs were on their way to their seventh straight victory. But the Archers had other plans. The De La Salle Green Archers defeated the National University Bulldogs 57-55. It was another close UAAP game in a season filled with several exciting close games! With the win, La Salle moved up to 9-4, creating a triple tie for first place along with NU and FEU. La Salle is also now assured of a Final Four berth, and they can seal at least a playoff for a twice-to-beat advantage win a win against the UST Growling Tigers this Saturday. La Salle is now on a six game winning streak, the only undefeated team of the second round and on the verge of sweeping the second round. La Salle also ended the six game winning streak of NU, a streak that started with an NU win over La Salle during the last game of the first round.

Both teams started flat during the first half. It was a close game all through out, with NU leading most of the way, but La Salle always fought back every time the Bulldogs tried pulling away. When NU grabbed a commanding nine point lead during the fourth quarter, La Salle could have panic or give up. But as our Alma Matter song says, “ Never shall we fail”. Credit goes to Coach Juno Sauler for not burning a time out during that NU run. That gave La Salle two more timeouts, timeouts that were used well during crunch time. He trusted his boys and they delivered. La Salle followed its game plan and stuck with its system. No wild out of control drives and they did not jack up desperation threes during the rally. A notoriously bad free throw shooter, Jeron Teng stepped up when it mattered the most as he once again proved that he is a clutch player. He made four straight clutch free throws, not bad for a guy shooting under 50% from the line this season! He also grabbed his own miss then made the go-ahead basket to give La Salle the lead for good. After NU missed a shot, La Revilla split his charities to give DLSU a two-point lead. But Bobby Ray Parks airballed his last second mid-range jump shot, and after a 3-4 record during the first round, La Salle is now on top of the league.

Reviewing the keys to the game

Limit Bobby Ray Parks

Bobby Ray Parks showed everyone why he is the reigning two-time MVP, with 19 points, five rebounds and three blocks. However, he just shot 1/7 from the three-point line. I said in my pre-game that one way of negating the greatness of Bobby Ray Parks is for Jeron Teng to have a big game, thus the two of them cancelling each other out. Jeron stepped up with 21 points and seven rebounds. This might not be as exciting compared to the game where they scored 35 points a piece last year during that double-overtime classic, but both players played like the superstars that they are in a crucial game.

Limit Emmanuel Mbe

A check mark for this one as Mbe struggled and scored only four points on just 2/9 from the field! He did grabbed eight rebounds though. NU needs Mbe in order for them to beat a determined Ateneo squad this Wednesday and grab the number one spot.

Will the Real Twin Towers please stand up?

A big X mark, a double big X mark! The twin towers of La Salle struggled once again.  Arnold Van Opstal only scored five points despite playing for 30 minutes. Though he did well defensively, grabbing 11 rebounds. AVO also turned the ball over five times. Not the Arnold Van Awesome performance I was hoping for. Norbert Torres played only 10 minutes and did not score a single point. He missed all three of his field goal attempts. He did grabbed four rebounds though, not bad considering he only played 10 minutes. Norbert Torres usually starts for the Archers with AVO coming off the bench but Coach Juno Sauler switched it this time around as AVO was the one who started, and Norbert played back up minutes. I still believe in the twin towers. I believe AVO’s first round performance is no fluke and I believe The Bear can contribute for DLSU.

The Good

Jeron Teng is proving to everyone that he is a clutch player. His crucial free throws against Adamson during the first round, the game-winner against Ateneo and the nine points during overtime versus UE. And now, he scored six crucial points against NU during crunch time, including four clutch free throws and the go ahead basket. Jeron is a great open court and one on one player. He is not afraid to go hard to the basket and get the contact.

Jason “Hefty Lefty” Perkins scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, another double-double performance for the super-rookie. He also dished out three assists. He made 7/11 field goals including ½ from the three-point land. His footwork in his post up moves is a thing of beauty and he can consistently hit mid-range jumpers. He can wreak havoc in the post, shoot from mid-range and even hit a three. He is a great rebounder who knows how to position his body. Some are even raving that this early on, he is already first round draft pick material in the pros! Perkins will soon play in his first Final Four game really soon. I am excited to see how well he fares when the stakes goes even higher, but something tells me he will do just fine.

The Bad

Well, just like the game against UE, NU controlled most of this game. La Salle needs to play more consistently for 40 minutes. The Twin Towers were absent offensively for this game and Almond Vosotros had an off night. He scored only two points, though those were clutch two points. La Salle can’t play with fire during the Final Four and can’t afford to play catch up all the time.

Final Thoughts

Remember during the first round when La Salle struggled during crunch time? La Salle blew double-digit fourth quarter leads against FEU and UE. La Salle also had a huge double-digit fourth quarter lead against Adamson before holding on for the slim victory. This is a new La Salle team now. Those experiences just made this team stronger. The struggles of July turned into the success of September, and hopefully, till October. Jason Perkins is now a consistent double-double machine. And even though he is still struggling with his shooting percentages, Jeron Teng is one of the premier clutch players of the UAAP. With UE now officially eliminated, there are only five teams remaining, and all five teams are talented enough to win the championship. DLSU, NU and FEU are now all officially in the Final Four while last year’s finalists, Ateneo and UST, are competing for the last Final Four spot. Next stop for the Archers, the UST Growling Tigers. La Salle started the season against UST and will end the eliminations against UST. La Salle lost in over time during their first meeting and the Archers wants revenge. La Salle wants a twice to beat advantage and UST wants to make it to the Final Four.  This might also be the last battle of the Teng brothers in the UAAP. Expect a not so brotherly love showdown this Saturday as the UAAP is down to its final few weeks!