Legends are born when the stakes are at their highest.
Time was down to 34 seconds and Ateneo’s Matt Nieto’s potential three-point play just pushed Ateneo ahead by a single point, 65-64. After Nieto muffed the bonus shot and Thirdy Ravena lost the leather on a drive, the one who they call King Archer, Jeron Teng, grabbed the leather and raced downcourt. Using a hard screen by Ben Mbala, Teng drove left, eluded three blue shirts and scooped home the marginal bucket off his left hand to give the Green Archers back the lead at 66-65 in Game 1 of the La Salle-Ateneo basketball championship series for Season 79.
After the Blue Eagles sued for time, this King Archer had his sights set on only one thing – the UAAP title. It was this fiery look that Coach Aldin Ayo saw which made him comment, “ayaw patalo ang batang ito,” about his graduating team captain.
In the ensuing play, Teng jammed what could have been a go-ahead jumper by Aaron Black, thus completing two game deciding plays on both ends to clinch the all-important Game 1 for the green.
As storied and intense as the La Salle-Ateneo rivalry is, heroes are galvanized into icons, whose tales will be told decades from now, by all important moments like that.
This is the story of Jeron Teng, the King Archer.
Being highly recruited and lured from all corners of the UAAP is not unfamiliar to the three-time MVP of the Chinese basketball league, Metro Manila Tiong Lian Basketball League (MMTBL). His firepower was chronicled after Teng dumped a hapless Grace Christian High School with his 104-point output on January 5, 2010 and served as the steward of a successful high school program producing an unprecedented 4-peat in the Chinese high school league.
Knocking on the door of a league that was hungry for reliable scorers, the 6’2 Xavier School forward was on the receiving end of multiple offers and finally chose to play for DLSU, announcing it through his Twitter account on January 13, 2011.
And just like that, a program that was flirting with obscurity was getting their first booster shot in the arm. They started to call the rebuild project – the Teng Dynasty.
Excitement grew across basketball-addict nation as the chosen Stallion from Xavier would renew his on-court rivalry with The Phenom of the Ateneo, Kiefer Ravena, as Teng brought his barreling drives to Taft in Season 75.
Under then freshly installed La Salle coach Gee Abanilla, Teng earned heavy rotation minutes as a starter and eventually found his way to becoming the focal point of many plays in the Abanilla playbook. Tengsanity was declared on all corners of 2401 Taft Avenue and hardworking Teng acknowledged this through his process on the hardwood.
The meteoric rise of Teng’s stardom, however, quickly cooled down because of one caveat — Jeron Teng cannot shoot free throws. Shooting an atrocious 56 percent from the line, the La Salle gallery held their breath every time Teng trooped to the charity stripe.
Jeron Teng also showed poor shot selection and had exchanged his inside slashes for three-point attempts. As a result, Teng ended the season shooting only 34 percent from downtown as La Salle bowed out to eventual Final Four tormentor, Ateneo.
Despite the semi-final finish, Teng bagged both the Rookie of the Year and was a part of the Mythical Five for Season 75.
A season wiser and stronger, Teng witnessed the second of three coaching changes as Juno Sauler took over for Abanilla. A summer work out with Green Archers shooting guru Renren Ritualo boosted expectations of a better season with loads of holdovers from the previous campaign.
Coach Sauler inherited a winner and Teng was at the helm of this deep talent pool in just his second year.
While the dark horse Archers buckled down into an unexpected 3-4 start in the first round, Teng led the green and white into a grand second round sweep of the eliminations with a 10-4 record, second only to the leading NU Bulldogs. This included the cold-blooded, buzzer-beating trey of Teng lifting La Salle over perennial rival Ateneo.
The Green Archers finished second in the two round elimination phase and were set to face FEU. La Salle trounced the rebuilding Tamaraws while the Comeback Tigers of Santo Tomas overcame a twice-to-beat disadvantage and marched on to the finals dislodging the league leading Bulldogs in the other Final Four toss-up.
The stage was set for a series beyond the imagination of one generation. It was not only about UST vs. La Salle and certainly not about the green vs. gold. It was Teng vs Teng — Jeric vs Jeron. Older brother Jeric wanting to sign his UAAP career off by bringing back the trophy to España against his up-and-coming sophomore brother.
The series went the distance as Jeric and his pack of Tigers pulled off a Game 1 victory while Jeron’s Archers retaliated in Game 2. Like a script written for a basketball blockbuster, the Game 3 battle went into overtime.
Behind by two points with 30 seconds left, Jeron Teng, who was fighting cramps the whole 2nd half, drove hard and fished a foul off the eventual campus pin doll, Aljon Mariano. After converting 1 of 2 free throws to inch within one, 69-68, Mariano literally threw the ball away and gave La Salle a chance to win the game in overtime. In the next play, Jeron drove hard to the left, spun right and then pitched a pass to the momentarily open Almond Vosotros who faked and downed the title clinching corner stab with 20 seconds to go.
While the Archers kept a firm grip of the lead at 71-69 with 9 seconds left after LA Revilla split his free shots, UST import Karim Abdul’s tunnel vision directed him to go coast-to-coast. The King Archer waited for the perfect time to swipe the ball off a slashing Abdul, who already blew by Arnold Van Opstal, and preserved La Salle’s Season 76 title quest.
The reason why the 104-point scoring wizard from Xavier High was in La Salle was finally realized. Jeron Teng had delivered his first title to De La Salle University in his sophomore season and with it, the playoffs Most Valuable Player. Ironically, 2013 was the only year Teng missed out on being named to the UAAP 1st team.
What seemed like a sweet dance for Teng’s remaining years became a nightmare.
After a fairy tale Season 76 ending, the De La Salle basketball program went into a tailspin. The downward spiral began when the Archers lost in the Philippine Collegiate Champions League despite the presence of Ben Mbala. The Archers also lost several players due to off-season injuries.
The Green Archers tried defending the crown until Mac Belo, with his momentous corner triple, breaking more than the 64-all deadlock but also the collective hearts of the Green Archer fandom.
The promise of the Teng Dynasty was never this bleak.
With the much-awaited debut of Ben Mbala having to wait another year and Arnold Van Opstal deciding to skip his final playing year, La Salle was swiftly relegated from favorites to darkhorse. But even the darkhorse tag was too much for a crumbling system. La Salle was left out of the Final Four against an FEU team that had no intention to win and gave the bench more playing time during La Salle’s last game. That was a low point for La Salle.
Season 78 was Teng’s best shooting year logging 41.1 percent from the field and 63.1 percent from the stripe. As the kid tasked to lead the Archers attack crumbled into tears, the Archers nation simply had to look forward to another year. But Teng was not to blame. La Salle’s main offensive weapon tallied 18.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists in this forgettable season.
La Salle needed a change. The easiest of which was a coaching change. This led from one mayhem to The Mayhem.
Coach Aldin Ayo, known for his grind out workouts and emphasis on team basketball was tapped to coach the Green Archers after his miracle title run with the Letran Knights just a season ago. There were some who questioned how The Mayhem would fit with the current Green Archer lineup.
But the under the radar, six-month grind, 2 to 3 workouts per day started to prep the Archers for their ultimate goal — bringing the UAAP basketball crown back to Taft.
And quietly, Teng was adding one crucial dimension to his game, a mid-range. Teng knew that relying on his barreling drives was not enough and patiently developed a mid-range jumper that turned from reliable to lethal. This opened up multiple options as defenders could no longer sag and egg the King Archer to take a J.
Bringing justice to the pre-season hype after the Fil-Oil title conquest, La Salle obliterated every single opponent with Teng at the forefront. Using exceptionally smart shot selection, Teng’s field goal percentage displayed offensive maturity and together with the league MVP Ben Mbala, assembled perhaps the most deadly 1-2 punch the league has seen in years.
Teng transformed from being a point maker to one with exceptional offensive efficiency. The King Archer also totally bought in to the Coach Ayo’s Mayhem, which not only stands for the whirlwind defense but also team oriented offense. They led the league in defensive rating (81 points per 100 possession), more than 5 points better than average. Despite a decline in numbers across the board, Jeron Teng was still leading the La Salle demolition train.
As the stage was set for the epic finale between the two rivals, Teng waited for a classic ending to his storied UAAP career. After his heroics in Game One, the King Archer declared that he wanted it to be “his last game as a Green Archer”.
Being the captain, Teng knew that leading the team in scoring would not be enough. He needed to lead his Archers from within. The King Archer charged out of the dug-out blazing from the tip-off and scored 10 of the first 12 La Salle points, single-handedly matching the vicious Ateneo start.
La Salle’s overwhelming bench exacted its’ full strength and erected a double digit lead of 14. But Ateneo didn’t give up.
Ateneo raced back multiple times and cut the lead to a precarious four-point spread at 73-69.
Big moment Jeron took over. Driving right, three blue shirts quickly collapsed on Teng who saw a perfect opening for a pin-point assist to the cutting Mbala for a close deuce. A close stab that clinched the championship at 75-69 with 1:13 to go.
The big stars shine brightest on the biggest nights. Teng stepped up his field goal percentage to 52.9 percent and elevated his free throw shooting to an elite 82 percent during the Archers’ playoff run.
Jeron Teng was a man among boys. He was a Rookie of the Year, a 2-time Finals MVP, 4-time member of the UAAP Mythical Team and 2-time champion. But more than the accolades, what will be remembered most about Jeron Teng is his heart that refuses to give up, nerves that know no pressure, an unrelenting desire to improve and the flame that sets his team on fire.
The King Archer who embodied the true essence of the word ANIMO!