Games between the Green Archers and the Tamaraws have always followed a similar script: La Salle will start the game at a frenetic pace, right until the final canto, before a furious rally will be mounted by FEU. The Archers scored much-needed buckets to quell two of those rallies, but succumbed in overtime against the FEU fightback during their first meeting.
But this time, it was the Tams who stormed out of the gates with all guns ablaze, netting six triples at the half in a reversal of their previous encounter, when La Salle had eight at the turn. Their shock troopers did most of the damage, with Carl Bryan Cruz having twelve points across his name at the half. They began the final period with three straight points by RR Garcia to hike their lead to seven, 59-52, with eight minutes and change remaining.
The Archers, however, are no strangers to facing deficits, and they will show their opponents that they can launch and complete comebacks of their own, starting with the next possession, on a split at the line by Thomas Torres.
A hook shot by Arnold Van Opstal followed in the next La Salle offensive, before LA Revilla stole the inbound pass and scored on an unmolested lay-up to bring the Tamaraw lead to just a basket, 57-59. Van Opstal once more scored against Anthony Hargrove in La Salle’s ensuing possession, and the game was tied, forcing FEU mentor Nash Racela to sue for time.
Hargrove and Cruz would score under the basket for the Tams, but Thomas Torres nailed two charities, while Norbert Torres scored two baskets for La Salle to hand his team a two-point edge, 65-63, with the game down to its last four minutes.
Roger Pogoy rifled in the last of FEU’s nine triples to give his team the slimmest of margins, 66-65, but it would prove to be FEU’s last taste of the lead as Jeron Teng scored and canned two out of four charities to give La Salle a three-point lead, 69-66, with time down to 1:56.
The door for an FEU win remained ajar, but Garcia missed a wide open three-point attempt from the left corner with only 13 ticks left, and Revilla secured the rebound for La Salle and was fouled by Mac Belo. Revilla split his charities to give the Archers a two-possession lead, but Belo missed another attempt from distance for the Tams, before Terrence Romeo managed to get an offensive board and score from inside to narrow the La Salle lead to two, 70-68.
Jason Perkins was fouled with 4.4 seconds left, and once more split his charities. The La Salle lead was only three, but Almond Vosotros wisely chose to give up La Salle’s final foul to give to milk the clock , which only had 1.6 seconds left. A harmless heave was attempted by a Tamaraw from the right wing, and the ball hit one corner of the board before falling into the hands of another FEU player.
But the final horn had sounded, La Salle’s comeback was complete, and one half of the Mall of Asia Arena had already erupted in celebration.
Down for most of the contest, the Green Archers outscored the Tamaraws 19-9 in the game’s eight minutes as they eked out a 71-68 victory in their Final Four match to send the Tams packing and barge into the Finals for the first time since 2008, when they also beat the Tams for the right to enter the Last Dance.
The win was also the ninth straight for La Salle, as they have not lost since a 63-56 decision against the NU Bulldogs last July 28, in their last game of the First Round.
Revilla, the hero of their playoff match-up, once more came up big for La Salle, finishing with 15 points, eight rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Teng wound up with another double-double performance of 15 points, 10 boards and six assists, while Norbert Torres also finished with 15 markers, seven rebounds, an assist, and a block for the Archers.
In contrast to their previous match, where they only held a four-rebound advantage against their opponents, La Salle dominated the boards, 51-39, to pave the way for 13 second-chance points, compared to FEU’s six. They also converted on 20 of their 35 charities, while the Tamaraws can only convert on half of their ten freebies.
The lead of the Tamaraws swelled to as much as 11 points, the last at 49-38 with 5:22 left in the third period, on a trifecta by Gryann Mendoza. From there, La Salle scored six unanswered points to cut the FEU lead to five, before Romeo, Roger Pogoy, and Mendoza scored baskets for the Tamaraws to bring their advantage to nine, 56-47.
Van Opstal would score for the Archers to bring them to within seven, before Mendoza was whistled for a technical foul with 12 ticks left in the period after being called for a foul on Teng, giving the reigning Rookie of the Year four charities plus ball possession for the Archers. Teng made three of his four free throws as third quarter ended with them down by only four, 52-56.
A jump shot by Teng gave the Archers a 13-11 advantage, with three minutes remaining during the first quarter, but the Tamaraws wrested the lead from then on, only letting up during the fourth, when they wilted under the Archers’ offensive onslaught. Pogoy nailed a triple that gave them back the lead, and Cruz scored seven quick points punctuated by a basket at the buzzer as FEU held a 21-18 advantage at the end of the first.
La Salle started the second quarter on five quick points by Norbert and a triple by Kib Montalbo, but Cruz countered with five points of his own, while Romeo likewise scored six in the period to give the Tamaraws a narrow lead. Revilla and Norbert, meanwhile, kept the Archers afloat in the second, and they came to as close as four, 31-35, on a hoop-and-harm basket by Torres, before Mike Tolomia punctuated the period with FEU’s sixth triple as they entered the break carrying a 38-31 advantage.
Cruz led the Tams with 16 points, two caroms, and a steal, while Romeo wound up with 14 points, three rebounds, seven assists, and two steals. Garcia, in his last UAAP game, finished with 10 markers, two rebounds, four assists, and a takeaway.
The Next Game (Finals Schedule): The Green Archers now await the winner of the NU-UST Final Four rubber match this Saturday, September 28. The first game of the Finals will be played on Wednesday, October 2, while the second game will be played on Saturday, October 5. A third and deciding match, if necessary, will be onOctober 9.
DLSU (71) – N. Torres 15, Teng 15, Revilla 15, Perkins 8, Van Opstal 6, Vosotros 5, T. Torres 4, Montalbo 3, Tampus 0, Salem 0, De La Paz 0.
FEU (68) – Cruz 16, Romeo 14, Garcia 10, Mendoza 8, Pogoy 6, Belo 5, Hargrove 4, Tolomia 3, Jose 2, Inigo 0, Sentcheu 0.
Quarterscores: 18-21; 31-38; 52-56; 71-68