La Salle's Jeron Teng (R) attempts a layup against Ateneo's Chris Newsome (L). Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA -- (UPDATE 1) The defending champions De La Salle Green Archers squandered a double-digit lead but proved to be the better team in crunch time as they defeated archrivals Ateneo, 88-86, in a down-the-wire showdown Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.
Jeron Teng scored 32 points -- his highest output so far in the UAAP Season 77 men's basketball tournament -- to power the Green Archers, who have now won six consecutive games after losing their first two assignments of the season.
"It was a very well-fought game between the two sides," said La Salle head coach Juno Sauler after the game, "which was what was expected."
Nearly 16,000 fans witnessed the Green Archers gain a measure of revenge against the Blue Eagles, who defeated them, 97-86, in their first-round encounter behind a 29-point explosion from guard Kiefer Ravena.
This time, Ravena finished with 22 points, but made only eight of 23 field goals and missed crucial shots in crunch time after hitting several clutch shots for Ateneo during their games in the first round.
"Ravena will always be Ravena," Sauler said. "He'll play that way. The best thing that you can do is to keep challenging his shot, and then hope that he misses."
La Salle led by as much as 13 points in the first half, with Teng notching 21 points in the first two frames alone. But Ateneo was able to slow him down in the second half, using different defensive looks to prevent the former Rookie of the Year from getting open.
"Yung first half, I saw openings for me, that's why I took it. Second half, nag-adjust ang defense nila, so I also had to adjust, so I had looking for my open teammates," said Teng.
Trailing 36-44 at halftime, Ateneo quickly cut into the deficit with a 5-0 blast to start the third period. La Salle was able to respond, however, with Teng setting up his teammates for open shots that allowed the Green Archers to regain an eight-point lead, 59-51, with 3:55 to go in the third quarter.
A 10-2 Ateneo run allowed them to tie the game for the first time at 61-all, but it was La Salle who ended the quarter on a strong note with a 5-0 run of their own.
In a nip-and-tuck final quarter, the Blue Eagles took a brief lead after Chris Newsome -- who played sparingly due to foul trouble -- scored a lay-up following a steal, but Teng was able to get the lead back via two free throws.
Ateneo took the lead for the last time with a Gwyne Capacio corner triple that made it 75-73, but La Salle unleashed an 8-2 run -- capped by an open three pointer by Julian Sargent -- that gave them an 81-77 lead.
The Blue Eagles still threatened, however. A floater by Ravena and a lay-up by Alfonso Gotladera tied the game for the last time at 81-all. They then had a chance to take the lead, but Ravena badly misfired on a three-pointer with less than a minute to go, which led to Jason Perkins draining the go-ahead jump shot on the other end.
After a timeout, Ravena got a good look inside but flubbed a finger-roll, allowing La Salle to extend their lead via a Perkins split at the line that made it 85-81 with 18.6 seconds to go.
Newsome was twice able to cut the La Salle lead in the final seconds, scoring on a quick lay-up and then a three-pointer, but both times the Green Archers were steady at the free throw line and made their charities to keep the Blue Eagles at bay.
Both Ateneo and La Salle now tote identical 6-2 win-loss records, tied with the Far Eastern University Tamaraws for the lead in tournament.
Sauler was quick to downplay La Salle's current record or their winning streak, however, saying: "I'm not even looking at the standings at this point or the streak."
Sauler did praise Teng for the adjustments he made in the second half, especially as he was able to involve his teammates in the offense with Ateneo opting to double-team him more.
"The defense started to adjust on Jeron in the second half, and he made very good reads. He involved his teammates," said Sauler. "The reason the other guys were scoring was not because of the minutes that they got but because of Jeron recognizing the defense."
Aside from Teng, La Salle also got big numbers from Perkins, who scored 18 points and grabbed 10 boards. Sargent and Robert Bolick combined for 21 points in the contest.
Teng was on fire to start the game, and the former Rookie of the Year showed off his offensive arsenal in the first quarter as he hit a variety of shots -- including a three-pointer -- on his way to 15 points.
Indeed, Teng outscored the entire Ateneo squad by himself, as the Blue Eagles struggled to get their offense in gear and put up only 10 points on the board in the opening frame. The Green Archers led 19-10 at the end of the first period.
La Salle's lead ballooned to 13 points at multiple points in the second quarter, as the Green Archers got points from a variety of sources including rookie Prince Rivero to keep the Blue Eagles at a distance.
Ravena, after a quiet start, started hitting his shots in the second canto, and his teammates finally got into the act towards the end of the frame with Von Pessumal draining a three-pointer and two free throws.
Still, the Green Archers were able to maintain a double-digit lead as the Blue Eagles were unable to defend without giving up fouls. A three-point play by Perkins put La Salle on top by 11, 44-33, but Ravena drained a three-pointer as the buzzer sounded to cut the deficit to single digits, 44-36, entering the halftime break.
Newsome played only 23 minutes for Ateneo due to foul trouble, but still scored 15 points. Nico Elorde added 14 markers but had to be subbed out at the end of the game due to cramps. Gotladera and Pessumal, who had career games against La Salle in the first round, combined for 20 points this time around.
DLSU 88 - Teng 32, Perkins 18, Sargent 11, Bolick 10, Rivero 9, Vosotros 6, Torres 2, Tratter 0, Montalbo 0, Mustre 0.
ADMU 86 - K. Ravena 22, Newsome 15, Elorde 14, Gotladera 10, Pessumal 10, Tolentino 7, Capacio 6, Babilonia 2, T. Ravena 0, Apacible 0, Lim 0.
Quarter-scoring: 19-10, 44-36, 66-61, 88-86