Even with their status as the top seed having already been decided, the DLSU Green Archers fought their way back from a tight game against a persistent FEU squad. The Tamaraws led the Archers for the first three quarters, but La Salle was able to make crucial baskets late in the game and managed to spark a comeback win over the Tamaraws, 73-67, earlier today at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Jeron Teng led his team with 17 points on 16 shot attempts. Ben Mbala’s double-double performance of 16 points and 16 rebounds contributed to La Salle’s winning effort. Meanwhile, FEU’s Alejandrino Inigo registered 18 points and 8 rebounds, while Allen Trinidad made five three-pointers and ended up with 16 points.
“We just [stuck] together at the end of the game and got some stops,” Mbala said after the game.
FEU asserts control over DLSU
Inigo drew first blood for FEU with a lay-up and a free throw, immediately giving them a three-point lead, 3-0, three minutes into the game. Mbala found himself struggling as his shots were falling short, with the Tamaraws’ efforts taking him out of his element. Later on, a three-pointer from Prince Rivero tied the score at 13 at the end of the first period.
The Tamaraws quickly started the second quarter with a 7-0 run. La Salle continued to struggle on the defensive end as they were over the foul limit halfway through the period. Mbala and Teng closed the seven-point lead with a jumpshot, before converting two free throws, bringing the deficit to three, 26-23. However, Inigo quickly responded with a 5-2 run. FEU garnered 24 rebounds, while La Salle was only able to record 18. This proved dangerous as the Tamaraws scored crucial second-chance points, even if they committed eight turnovers in the first half. Mbala only scored six points in the first half, most of which came from the free throw line. The second quarter ended with a Teng jumpshot and a Kib Montalbo layup that cut the FEU lead to three, 35-32, at halftime.
La Salle takes over
Mbala struggled during the first half but he started to make his presence felt by scoring the first four points for La Salle in the opening minutes of the second half. However, the Tamaraws kept their distance from the Green Archers thanks to the combined efforts of Inigo and Wendell Comboy. DLSU answered back with a 10-0 scoring run to take the lead for the first time at 50-48. However, the guards of FEU snatched the lead back before heading into the last quarter. A three-pointer from Trinidad and a put-back basket from Inigo gave FEU the lead at the end of the third quarter, 53-51.
The crowd witnessed an intense fourth quarter where La Salle stunned FEU to steal the win. Andrei Caracut started things off for La Salle with a couple of layups. Both teams went back-and-forth during the first five minutes of play, with FEU leading La Salle by five points, 65-60, from a transition layup by Comboy. Teng continued to miss from the perimeter as he hoped to cut the five-point deficit. However, a put-back dunk by Mbala coming off a Teng miss during the five-minute mark put the crowd on its feet. Inigo then quickly converted a three-point play to silence the La Salle crowd.
With the game coming down the wire, a three-pointer from Melecio tied the game at 67 and ignited a 9-0 run with two minutes left to snatch the game from the Tamaraws. A couple of free-throws from Teng in the final seconds ensured the win for the Green-and-White.
“We were able to execute our plays on both ends of the floor,” DLSU head coach Aldin Ayo said during the post-game press conference, adding that they went back to their strategies from earlier this season to pull out the win.
The game had a total of eight ties and five lead changes. La Salle forced 17 turnovers and was able to score 12 points off of them. DLSU concluded the second round of eliminations with a 13-1 win-loss record and secured the top seed with the twice-to-beat advantage. They will wait for ADMU, AdU, and FEU to play their final games, the outcomes of which will determine the second, third, and fourth seeds of the Final Four.
“A good win for us coming into the semis,” said a relieved Teng, who nearly played 30 minutes against FEU.
DLSU (73) – Teng 17, Mbala 16, Montalbo 13, Melecio 12, Tratter 5, Caracut 4, Rivero 3, Torres 3, Paraiso 0, Sargent 0, Baltazar 0
FEU (67) – Inigo 18, Trinidad 16, Orizu 7, Comboy 7, Arong 7, Escoto 6, Jose 4, Dennison 2, Tuffin 0, Holmqvist 0, Ebona 0, Nunag 0
Quarterscores: 13-13, 32-35, 51-53, 73-67