La Salle's strong finish dents skidding FEU's bid for twice-to-beat edge in semis
Aljun Melecio sparked a decisive finishing kick for La Salle. Jaime Campos

ALJUN Melecio, Jeron Teng and Ben Mbala led a late charge as La Salle edged Far Eastern University, 73-67, on Saturday to wrap up its elims schedule in the UAAP Season 79 basketball tournament. 

The Archers entered the match already assured of the top seeding in the semifinals, but still gave their all and finished the double-round robin elims with 13 wins in 14 games.

The Tamaraws, meanwhile, slipped to third with their fifth loss in 13 outings, leaving Ateneo in second with a 9-4 win-loss record after downing also-ran University of Sto. Tomas.

Second place entails twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four.

Melecio uncorked a booming triple to tie the game at 67-all, before Teng scored on a layup as La Salle regained the lead. 
 
Fortunately for the Archers, Allen Trinidad turned the ball over in the ensuing play that led to an Mbala putback off Teng's missed jumper to put La Salle comfortably ahead. 
 
Teng, who scattered 17 points, then put the finishing touches with a pair of free throws as La Salle registered their best record since 2002.
 
Mbala had 16 points and 16 rebounds, while Kib Montalbo and Melecio added 13 and 12 markers, respectively. 
 
"Big game after a big loss. We're grateful for this game because mahirap yung talo na yun (sa Ateneo)," said La Salle coach Aldin Ayo. 
 
"We were able to execute our pace on both ends of the floor, both offense and defense. It's all about execution naman and the good thing is that we were able to convert."

FEU absorbed its third straight loss since the 10-day break and fell to an 8-5 card. 

Axel Inigo paced the Tamaraws with 18 points and eight rebounds. Trinidad added 16.

The Scores:

DLSU 73 – Teng 17, Mbala 16, Montalbo 13, Melecio 12, Tratter 5, Caracut 4, Rivero P 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

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Quarterscores: 13-13, 32-35, 51-53, 73-67

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