THE De La Salle Green Archers rode on the broad shoulders of unflappable sophomore Jeron Teng to beat out University of Santo Tomas, 71-69, in an overtime thriller and win the UAAP Season 76 men's basketball championship before a record crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Fighting cramps on his feet in the final stretch, Teng demanded the ball and made all the big plays when the Green Archers battled back from the depths of a 15-point deficit to win their first championship since 2007 with a lineup and a rookie coach that looked nowhere like championship material when the season began.
By winning a best-of-three title series, 2-1, that lived up to its billing, the Green Archers succeeded arch-rival and five-peat champions Ateneo as the new kings of the country's premier league and rewarded coach Juno Sauler a championship right in his first season as coach.
DLSU has Teng to thank for that.
Teng, who first made a name for himself when he scored more than a 100 points in a high school game, scored 25 points and made three key plays in overtime that enabled the Archers to snatch the win away from the Tigers and his equally determined older brother Jeric.
The DLSU sophomore answered Jeric's big basket with a free throw, set up Almond Vosotros for the go-ahead jumper, 70-69, with 19.7 seconds to go then stopped a drive by Karim Abdul with 2.3 seconds left.
“Everyone just wanted to fight it out even in the last five minutes,” said Sauler, who took over from Gee Abanilla just weeks before the start of the season. “I know we were down, some players had cramps but showed great fight in the end.”
The supposedly more experienced UST Tigers were in control for much of regulation but uncharacteristically collapsed with turnovers and errors in judgement when it mattered.
Aljon Mariano made the two free throws that tied the game, 65-all, with 53 seconds left in regulation but, with UST getting a final possession to go for a win, decided to go at it alone and ended up missing a jumper from the top of the key.
Worse, the UST forward threw the wild outlet pass that led to Vosotros' go-ahead jumper in overtime.
Jason Perkins, who like Teng had to endure cramps in the endgame, added 13 points and 18 rebounds for the Green Archers, who notched their eighth UAAP crown overall after an amazing run that saw them win 11 of their final 12 matches.
Abdul finished with 26 points but missed the three-point try in the end. Jeric Teng scored 24 markers but ended his collegiate career without a championship to his name.
The Tigers were inconsolable after finishing runner-up for the second straight year while the Green Archers celebrated as white confetti rained down the rafters of the MOA Arena at the end of a game that drew 23,305 fans - the biggest crowd to watch a league match.
The Green Archers erased a 15-point deficit with a furious 22-8 windup in the third quarter to trail by only a point, 47-48, entering the fourth.
La Salle finally took the lead briefly in the fourth but UST wrested back the lead at 61-56 with five minutes to play in the game.
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; 71-69.