Green Archers hold off Tigers to force rubber match in UAAP Finals 

Not with a whimper, but with a bang.

Different sports pundits have repeatedly billed the UAAP Finals match-up between the Green Archers and the Growling Tigers as a battle between the former’s height and the latter’s heart, but with elimination staring them in the face, it was time for La Salle to show their heart.

And show it they did.

Their advantage, which once stood at seventeen, was whittled down to a solitary point, 44-43, after a triple by Tiger Clark Bautista during the third stanza, forcing Archers mentor Juno Sauler to call for time.

When the play resumed, the leather was pounded down low to Arnold Van Opstal, who was immediately crowded by three Tigers, including Karim Abdul. Van Opstal looked to attempt a shot, before dishing off to a wide open Jason Perkins for the easy deuce.

The next play found the rock back into Van Opstal’s hands, and he backed down on Abdul, spun, and launched a hook shot for another two points and some separation between the two squads.

One empty UST possession later and Van Opstal scored another basket. So did LA Revilla, Almond Vosotros, and finally Norbert Torres on another attack inside. This was all part of a 13-2 reply to the Tigers’s rally early in the period that re-established La Salle’s advantage back to a dozen, 57-45.

Not with a whimper, but with a bang.

After suffering from a flat start during the first game, it was the Green Archers who started the game by firing on all cylinders, racing to a huge lead before quelling several rallies by the Tigers towards the end of the match to emerge with the victory, 77-70 earlier today at the Smart- Araneta Coliseum. The win ties their Finals series at one game apiece and forces a third, winner-take-all match which will be held next Saturday, October 12, at the Mall of Asia Arena, the first time that it has happened since 2009.

Jeron Teng paced the Archers in scoring, as he wound up with 19 points, nine rebounds, four assists, and three steals, while Norbert Torres, who managed only a couple of points in the opener, turned in a double-double performance of 17 points, 10 boards, and three rejections. Van Opstal, meanwhile, also finished with a double-double of 13 points, 14 caroms, three assists, and a block.

Vosotros, who paced the Archers in scoring in the previous game, managed 11 points, two boards, an assist, and a block while LA Revilla nearly finished with a double-double of nine markers, 10 boards, four assists, and a block.

“Malaking bagay na lahat kami naka-contribute, kasi nung first game nag-kanya-kanya kami eh,” said Teng regarding the Archers’ balanced attack, highlighted by their sizeable 16-7 advantage against the Tigers. La Salle also dominated the battle of the boards, 57-39 (27-10 on the offensive glass), second chance points, 18-6.

Sauler has mentioned at the end of the first game that intends to milk the post some more in order to yield points for the Archers, and he exploited this advantage to the hilt as La Salle lorded it over their rivals in the paint, with the triumvirate of Perkins-Van Opstal-Torres combining for 36 of the team’s 77 points.

Jeric Teng led all scorers with 28 points and three rebounds, while Abdul was the only other Tiger in double figures as he finished with 13 points, nine boards, an assist, a steal, and three blocks. Mariano, who scored only two points in the first game, added nine points, eight rebounds, and two assists for UST.

If the first canto of the first game saw Tigers Karim Abdul and Kevin Ferrer combine for 19 of the Tigers’ 23 first quarter points, this time it was La Salle who had a fiery start to the game. Led by Jeron Teng’s 12 first quarter points, La Salle raced to a 21-12 advantage after ten minutes of play.

“They had a lot of three pointers during the first quarter [last game], and we addressed that,” Sauler said regarding the reason why the Tigers were unable to duplicate their fast start in today’s game. True enough, the Tigers had only two triples at the half, and Ferrer, the hero of the opener, scored his first points of the match on a couple of charities midway through the second.

Five quick points by Vosotros increased La Salle’s lead to 36-19 near the halfway point of the second canto, before a 12-2 counter by the Tigers would allow them to creep to within seven, 38-31, with seven of the 12 coming from Jeric Teng. A split at the line by Jeron Teng and a basket by Norbert Torres near the end of the period allowed La Salle to hold on to a 41-33 halftime lead.

A trifecta by Perkins began La Salle’s attack during the final period, but Abdul would score five quick points for the Tigers to bring his team to within single digits, 58-67. Van Opstal would score on the other end for the Archers, seven minutes left on the clock.

On the next UST possession, Jeric Teng trooped to the line for two charities, but muffed both- his only misses from the line for the game- while his younger brother swooped in for an easy lay-up on the other end for La Salle, bringing their advantage back to baker’s dozen, 71-58.

Teng and Abdul would continue to keep the Tigers afloat during the payoff period, but timely baskets by Teng, Van Opstal, and charities by Norbert Torres would preserve La Salle’s lead.

And as Ferrer heaved a triple that missed everything with only seven seconds left on the clock, Van Opstal emerged with the last of his 14 boards and held on to the ball as the clock run out and the final horn pierced the air.

Not with a whimper, but with a bang.

“Agressive kami kasi pag natalo kami, wala ng bukas,” remarked the younger Teng regarding the game.  “We gave our all, and we’ll have same mentality in the next game.”

The Final Game: The Archers will shoot for their eighth UAAP title in their rubber match with the Tigers next Saturday, October 12, at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

The Score:

La Salle-77-Teng-19, N. Torres-16, Van Opstal-13, Vosotros-11, Revilla-9, Perkins-7, T. Torres-2,

UST-70- Teng-28. Abdu;-13, Mariano-9, Sheriff-6, Ferrer-6, Bautista-6, Lo-2, Pa-0, Daquioag-0

Quarterscores: 21-12, 41-33, 64-53, 77-70