DE La Salle marched to the finals of the UAAP Season 79 seniors basketball tournament after beating a hard-fighting Adamson squad, 69-64, on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The top-seed Green Archers overcame a horde of turnovers and a late Falcons fightback to advance to the title series against the winner of the Far Eastern University-Ateneo match on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The rubber match, if necessary, is next Wednesday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Jeron Teng, eager to crown his final year with a championship, finished with 25 points as the Green Archers stayed on track for their first league championship since taking the 2013 crown.
The top-seeded and twice-to-beat Green Archers, however, had to earn the finals berth the hard way with Adamson keeping the game close up until the final seconds.
No wonder La Salle coach Aldin Ayo was visibly disappointed with how the Green Archers played.
“We were not playing our game. That is why I’m hesitant to congratulate them because it was a horrible game for us. I don’t like the timing,” Ayo said.
Ben Mbala had 21 points and 16 rebounds for the Green Archers, who took control in the second period with a key 10-0 run highlighted by Mbala dunks that put them ahead, 35-28.
But the Falcons refused to go away, responding with an 11-0 burst midway through the third to regain the lead, 47-45, and keep the game close the rest of the way.
Teng came to the rescue in the clutch, scoring 11 in the fourth period including a jumper with 2:23 left in the game for a 67-64 lead.
Fortunately for La Salle, Adamson flubbed all their shots in the end game including a sequence where they grabbed three offensive rebounds but failed to convert each time.
Sean Manganti had 13 points while Robbie Manalang added 12 points at the end of the surprising season of the Falcons that saw them make the Final Four with an 8-6 record in the elimination round.
La Salle (69)—Teng 25, Mbala 21, Torres 6, Melecio 6, Tratter 4, Montalbo 3, P. Rivero 2, R. Rivero 2, Caracut 0, Paraiso 0, Perkins 0.
Adamson (64)—Manganti 13, Manalang 12, Sarr 11, Ahanmisi 9, Espeleta 9, Ochea 5, Tungcab 3, Bernardo 2, Mustre 0, Paranada 0, Camacho 0, Barrera 0, Chua 0, Ng 0.
Quarterscores: 22-20, 37-33, 50-51, 69-64.