JERON Teng came through on both ends at crunch time as La Salle outlasted Ateneo, 67-65, to draw first blood in the UAAP men’s basketball Finals on Saturday before a sizeable crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The senior forward hit the layup that put the Green Archers up for good, before coming up with a block on Aaron Black’s jumper as the Green Archers avoided a meltdown to take the opener of the best-of-three series.
“(It was) winning time,” Archers coach Aldin Ayo said, accompanied by Teng and Ben Mbala in the press room. “Eto yung mga players na…hindi magpapatalo ‘tong mga ‘to eh.”
Game Two is on Wednesday at the Big Dome where the Archers aim for a sweep and the Blue Eagles seek to equalize and force a sudden death.
Mbala made his presence felt after going scoreless in the first period as the Cameroonian sltoman still finished with a game-high 20 points, although he made just four of his 13 shots for 31 percent.
Good thing, La Salle drew significant contribution from bench players, mostly from rookie Aljun Melecio who continued to show maturity beyond his years to finish with 12 points after also going scoreless in the opening period.
But it was Teng who shone brightest down the stretch. Off a Kib Montalbo steal, Teng drove to the lane and scored the layup that gave them a 66-65 lead with 15.1 seconds left, negating a Matt Nieto jumper in the previous play that put the Eagles ahead for only the second time in the game.
Teng, who finished with 10 points, four boards, and three assists, followed his basket with a stop on the other end, jumping high enough to deflect Black’s shot that would’ve given the lead back to Ateneo.
“I just had to step up,” Teng said as his heroics spared the Green Archers’ blushes after they squandered a 15-point lead.
“Instinct na lang yun,” he added of his go-ahead layup. Ben did a good job sealing and I saw an opening. And on the block, crunch time na, adrenaline na 'yun eh. Buti natamaan ko yung bola.”
Black scored a team-high 12 points and eight boards, but it was Chibueze Ikeh’s hustle and effort that kept them afloat, scoring all but two of his eight points in the final frame, before the Archers held on.
La Salle 67 – Mbala 20, Melecio 12, Teng 10, Sargent 7, Torres 5, Montalbo 4, Rivero P 3, Tratter 3, Rivero R 2, Caracut 1, Perkins 0, Baltazar 0
Ateneo 65 – Black 12, Wong 9, Ravena 8, Ikeh 8, Nieto Mi 8, Go 6, Verano 5, Nieto Ma 5, Tolentino 2, Asistio 2, Porter 0, Mendoza 0
Quarterscores: 19-6, 36-26, 52-52, 67-65