MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – De La Salle University (DLSU) battled from 15 points down to carve out a thrilling 71-69 overtime victory against University of Sto. Tomas (UST) and clinch its first UAAP crown since 2007.
Jeron Teng, who foiled his brother Jeric’s title hopes, paved the way for the Archers, who trailed the Tigers after the first two quarters, 24-32.
La Salle fought for every ball possession in the second half and forced overtime with the scores tied at 65. The Archers took over during the extension and eventually dealt UST a heart breaking defeat.
Jeron, who finished with 25 points and 8 rebounds, admitted having mixed feelings despite winning the crown for La Salle.
“When the buzzer sounded, I really didn't know what to feel because on one side I'm happy because we're champions but on the other side ‘yung brother ko, I feel his loss,” said Jeron, who was chosen as the Finals MVP.
“S’yempre mahirap kasi my brother gave his all, played his heart out, for me he's the deserving MVP for this series.”
UST temporarily gained the upper hand in overtime when Jeric pushed the Tigers ahead, 69-67, on a turnaround shot.
After Jeron split his free throws, Aljon Mariano committed a costly turnover with 26.7 seconds remaining.
Almond Vosotros’ go-ahead jumper with 19.7 ticks left had La Salle leading, 70-69. LA Revilla then provided the Archers a 71-69 breather by splitting his shots on the stripe.
UST had the chance to steal the game, but Karim Abdul missed on his final heave. This allowed La Salle to escape with the title.
Vosotros finished with 16 points, including the basket that gave La Salle the lead. “’Yung last shot ko, siguro sobrang dami lang sigurong nape-pray, kaya pumasok,” he said.
He thanked the coaching staff for their confidence despite his roller-coaster performance throughout the season.
“Sobrang nag-struggle ako four games straight pero nag-stick pa rin sa akin ‘yung coaching staff, talagang binigyan ako ng confidence,” said Vosotros.
The victory also gave coach Juno Sauler his first title on his first year as La Salle mentor. He had to watch his team suffer a 3-4 record in the first round before they took on an 11-1 surge up to the finals.
Sauler said the title win is the result of their never-ending pursuit to improve their game.
“It's not about winning the ball game, more important than that is how we improve on a daily basis, make sure that everyday in practice we keep getting better and better and hopefully wherever that takes us is something we have to accept,” said the 40-year-old mentor, who took over La Salle’s coaching reins shortly before the 76th season began.
Even when UST took a 69-67 lead during overtime, Sauler said they remained positive about pulling through in the end game.
“I told them that it will boil down to every possession, so I guess knowing that we have 5 minutes and multiple possessions, we just had to struggle it out and in the end it worked for us.”
Jason Perkins had 13 points and 18 rebounds to help La Salle win its 8th UAAP title. The last time La Salle won the title was when it swept University of the East in the 2007 finals.
Abdul topscored the Tigers with 26 points, while Jeric settled with 24.
DLSU 71 – Teng 25, Vosotros 16, Perkins 13, Van Opstal 11, T. Torres 4, N. Torres 1, Revilla 1, Tampus 0, Salem 0.
UST 69 – Abdul 26, Teng 24, Ferrer 7, Bautista 4, Mariano 3, Sheriff 2, Lao 2, Pe 1.
Quarterscores: 16-18; 24-32; 47-48; 65-65; OT, 71-69.