Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
It could have ended today, on a hot Saturday afternoon, in the same place where it started, against a team that was a puzzle they were yet to solve, a code they were yet to crack. On the heels of a stunning loss by the national team and an equally painful overtime loss by another defending champion, the Lady Archers.
Six days ago, this same team walked off the floor of the Mall of Asia Arena with bowed heads and slumped shoulders after a third straight loss against the Tamaraws, their performance raising more questions rather than providing answers. The final horn sounded much earlier, and yet another game was still being played, one which lasted for several days and is played with anger and features a whole lot of finger-pointing.
It could have ended today. This team could, in the words of poet Dylan Thomas, have gone quietly into that good night, although nights would be anything but good if that actually happened.
It could have ended today. But it didn’t.
On the brink of elimination, the Green Archers responded with one of their finest performances in Season 77, thrashing the FEU Tamaraws, 94-73, in their UAAP Final Four match earlier today. The win, which was La Salle’s first against FEU this season, forces a sudden-death match between the teams for the right to enter the Finals, which will be played this Wednesday.
After struggling for just eight points on a dismal 2-for-9 shooting during the last game, Jeron Teng drove for buckets, to fish for fouls, and even nailed a couple of threes to finish with 25 points, seven boards, and three assists. A couple of graduating players likewise delivered solid performances, as Norbert Torres added 18 points, seven caroms, and two assists, while Almond Vosotros finished with 17 points, eight rebounds, and four assists.
Right from the opening tip, the Archers made it known that they were here to play, as they started the game by making their first few shots from the perimeter. Vosotros drilled a three to make it 11-7 early, but FEU’s Mac Belo made a couple of buckets to trim the lead to two. But La Salle uncorked a 12-5 run to end the quarter, anchored on three triples from Julian Sargent and baskets by Teng and Norbert Torres.
Torres continued the onslaught early in the second, but a thunderous dunk by Hargrove and back-to-back triples by Belo and Mike Tolomia cut the La Salle lead to just six-, 28-22, forcing La Salle coach Juno Sauler to sue for time. Vosotros answered with a three for the Archers, but Tolomia and Belo further trimmed their lead, as a steal and a fastbreak dunk by the latter brought FEU to within four, 27-31. Teng padded La Salle’s lead with his first triple though, as the Archers entered the break ahead by seven, 34-27.
Teng poured in 11 of his 25 in the third, most of which came from an array of drives to the basket and free throws. In all, the Archers received 20 free throws in the period, making 16, while the Tamaraws only had six and could only muster 20 points in the period to La Salle’s 29. Three unsportsmanlike fouls were called in the quarter, one on Francis Tamsi for elbowing Rivero during a rebound play, one for FEU Coach Nash Racela, and another one on Ron Dennison after a hard foul on Teng.
By the fourth quarter, Belo decided to put his entire team on his shoulders, scoring their first seven points in the period, the last on a charity to bring them to within 16, 70-54. Vosotros, Teng, and Norbert Torres, however, nailed baskets of their own to stymie every FEU rally heading into the game’s final minutes.
With 2:44 left and the Archers up 85-62, the Tamaraws resorted to fouling Arnold Van Opstal in an attempt to cut into the lead without burning a lot of time. Van Opstal only made two of the six free throws awarded to him, while players like Matt Salem, Thomas Torres, Kib Montalbo, and Terrence Mustre were likewise sent to the line, and they made a total of seven of their 12 attempts, with a free throw by Torres bringing the lead to its largest, 91-66, with a little over a minute left.
Belo finished with a career-high 32 points on an 11-of-20 shooting, while also adding two dimes, but was the only Tamaraw in double-figures. Tolomia, who entered the game averaging 21 points against the Archers, groped for form and finished with just seven on a 2-for-14 shooting clip.
Overall, La Salle shot 42% from the field while holding down the Tamaraws to just 35%. The La Salle big men outrebounded their counterparts, 54-41 (17-12 on the offensive glass), and had more assists, 19-10. The Archers likewise got a huge offensive lift from their bench, which scored 37 points to the Tamaraws’ 22.
Notes: Thomas Torres scored his first points since coming back from injury, scoring from the free throw line at the 1:14 mark of the fourth. Mustre, meanwhile, scored his first point in the UAAP as well, swishing a free throw with 1:03 left.
For the Finals: The Green Archers will gun for their second straight Finals berth this Wednesday, October 1. Game time is at 6pm at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
DLSU -94 – Teng-25, Torres, N.-18, Vosotros-17, Sargent-11, Perkins-8, Van Opstal-4, Montalbo-3, Torres, T.-3, Rivero-2, Salem-2, Mustre-1, Andrada-0
FEU- 73 – Belo-32, Tolomia-7, David-7, Iñigo- 6, Tamsi- 6, Jose- 5, Cruz- 4, Pogoy-2, Hargrove-2, Ugsang-2, Lee Yu-0, Dennison-0, Escoto-0, Delfinado-0, Denila-0
Quarterscores: 24-14, 34-27, 63-47, 94-73