There was an explosion in the first quarter by one player and a scoring binge in the second by another. There were shots that were tightly-contested, that arched high over the basket, probably hit a satellite or two, before swishing through the net. There was a booming triple by one side that was quickly answered by the other, which sent one side of the Smart-Araneta Coliseum into pandemonium and quickly hushed the other. There were made acrobatic shots that made you shake your head, and shots that barely drew iron. And, of course, like your favorite TV show, there was drama.
But in the end, it was a pull-up jumpshot, with the shot clock expiring, along with some pressure packed free throws, that finally spelled the difference between the two competing teams.
It was a war of attrition, and the Green Archers were the survivors.
Jason Perkins hit a jumper with 31 seconds remaining to put La Salle ahead by three points, 84-81, and despite a frenzied rally from Ateneo’s Chris Newsome, who scored a lay-up and nailed a three-pointer in the dying seconds, clutch free throws from Jeron Teng, Perkins, and Almond Vosotros kept the Blue Eagles at bay to give La Salle the win, 88-86, to start their second round campaign in UAAP Season 77 on a high note.
The win by La Salle, coupled with FEU’s win earlier in the day against NU, forces a three-way logjam at the top of the standings, with La Salle, FEU, and Ateneo now having identical 6-2 win loss records.
Perkins may have made the all-important basket, but it was Teng who was agressive from the opening tip, scoring a season-high 32 points, while adding six rebounds, five assists, and a steal. 17 of his 32 came from the line, as he shot 17-for-20 from the charity stripe for an 85% clip. Not to be outdone, Perkins finished with a double-double of 18 points, 10 boards, and an assist.
Teng started the game with fearless drives to the basket, several trips to the line, and even a three-pointer as he scored 15 of La Salle’s 19 points in the first quarter, while Ateneo struggled early on. Then came the onslaught of Kiefer Ravena, the league’s leading MVP candidate, who did not score in the first canto but poured 15 in the second on an array of floaters and difficult jumpshots, even as he was shadowed by Julian Sargent and Robert Bolick.
La Salle’s lead, which was as high as 13 in the second period, the last at 36-23 with about three minutes remaining, was whittled down to just eight at the break after a Ravena triple near the halftime buzzer.
Ateneo drew even closer at the start of the third as Nico Elorde and Arvin Tolentino came alive in the period and the Blue Eagles adjusted their defense on Teng. But the extra attention given to the reigning Finals MVP meant that someone was open, and he constantly found Bolick and Perkins for baskets to pad their lead.
Ravena, Elorde, and Von Pessumal, however, continued to make baskets, and two charities by Pessumal finally knotted the count at 61, less than two minutes left in the period. But a split at the line by Rivero, a basket by Sargent, and another score by Teng allowed the Archers to take a five point lead heading into the fourth.
La Salle enjoyed a seven-point spread, 68-61, at the start of the fourth after a jumper by Teng, but Newsome, Gwayne Capacio, and Gideon Babilonia teamed up for a 16-5 Ateneo run for them to notch a 75-73 lead midway through the payoff period. Teng, Perkins, and Rivero once again scored and shoved La Salle in the driver’s seat, but free throws by Ravena allowed the Eagles to draw close. Norbert Torres canned two charities and Sargent rifled in a triple from Teng that sent the La Salle crowd into a frenzy and gave them an 81-77 lead with 2:06 left, which seemed a luxury at that point.
But Ravena and Ponso Gotladera scored for Ateneo to forge what would be the game’s last deadlock. Teng had a split on the line, and a lane violation on his second free throw was called a jumpball. Players from both sides jockeyed for position. The jumpball was done two times. Possession was then awarded to La Salle, which was then overturned, as it was apparently a violation on Torres during the jump that was spotted, giving the ball to the Blue Eagles.
Ravena had the ball in his hands, at the top of the key, less than a minute left and the game hanging precariously in the balance. He shot a three-pointer over Vosotros, but the ball hit nothing but air, and La Salle corralled the rebound which led to Perkins’ jumpshot and the game-turning play.
The Eagles found Ravena once more in the ensuing Ateneo possession, but missed again on a drive, and free throws by Teng, Perkins, and Vosotros sealed the win for La Salle despite a Newsome-fueled fightback from the Eagles. Bolick, Sargent, and Rivero were likewise huge for the Archers, scoring 11, ten, and nine points, respectively, as they held the fort for several Archers who were injured or just came from injuries and did not play heavy minutes.
Ravena, who was clearly gassed at the end of the game after playing all but three minutes in the contest, led the Eagles with 22 points, six boards, and six assists, though he shot 8-for-23 and made only half of his free throws. Newsome added 15 points, five boards, three assists, and two steals, while Elorde finished with 14 markers, five rebounds, and five dimes. Pessumal and Gotladera added ten apiece for the Blue Eagles, with Gotladera pulling down a game-high 15 boards.
Notes: Norbert Torres, who suffered a laceration on his finger in La Salle’s previous game against UST, started for the Archers and played for 17 minutes, scoring two points and hauling nine rebounds; Kib Montalbo, who suffered a calf injury also in the UST game, played for two minutes, while Terrence Mustre, nursing a wrist injury, played for only 17 seconds in the second period; Arnold Van Opstal, who has been out since La Salle’s game against Adamson, was in uniform but did not play; Thomas Torres was not in uniform and did not play for the Archers.
The Next Game: The Green Archers will try to go for their seventh straight win against the UP Fighting Maroons, this Saturday, August 23, 2pm at the MOA Arena.
La Salle- 88 –Teng-32, Perkins-18, Sargent-11, Bolick-10, Rivero-9, Vosotros-6, Torres, N.-2, Tratter-0, Montalbo-0, Mustre-0
Ateneo-86- Ravena, K.-22, Newsome-15, Elorde-14, Gotladera-10, Pessumal-10, Tolentino-7, Capacio-6, Babilonia-2, Ravena, T.-0, Apacible-0, Lim-0
Quarterscores: 19-10, 44-36, 66-61. 88-86