JERON TENG played the hero’s role once more, hitting a putback with 44.8 seconds left to send De La Salle to a 57-55 victory over National University on Sunday and forge a three-way tie for the UAAP Season 76 men’s basketball tournament lead at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Teng converted the shot after grabbing his own miss, which turned out to be the game-winner as the Green Archers formally clinched a Final Four spot and left rival Ateneo and University of Santo Tomas - last year's finalists - to dispute the last berth in the playoffs.
The Archers remain undefeated in the second round, registering their sixth consecutive victory for a 9-4 record to join NU and Far Eastern University at the top of the standings going into their final game of the eliminations.
NU’s winning streak ended at six, but the Bulldogs’ but remained on pace for the No. 1 spot if the three teams remain tied at the end of the eliminations due to a superior quotient.
The Green Archers engineered an 11-3 run to take the lead, 54-53, with Teng, who finished with 21 points, scoring the last four points on free throws.
Bobby Ray Parks hit a tough lay-up with 1:01 left in the game but, after Teng’s putback, the NU team leader missed a jumper on the next possession.
After Denice Villamor’s jumper hit the side of the board, NU still had a chance after a split from the free-throw line by LA Revilla for a two-point game. But Parks’ long jumper missed the ring completely.
La Salle coach Juno Sauler credited the team’s mental toughness for their winning streak.
“After the first round, because of the games that we have experienced, I just told them to be mentally tougher coming into the second round, just be mentally prepared. So everything was mental in our preparations,” said Sauler.
Jason Perkins had 18 points and 10 rebounds for La Salle, which survived the two-point outing of its top scorer Almond Vosotros.
Parks finished with 19 points for the Bulldogs.
DLSU (57) – Teng 21, Perkins 18, Revilla 6, Van Opstal 5, Salem 3, Vosotros 2, Reyes 2, N. Torres 0, T. Torres 0, Montalbo 0, De La Paz 0, Bolick 0.
NU (55) – Parks 19, Alolino 15, Villamor 7, Javillonar 5, Mbe 4, Rosario 3, Neypes 2, Rono 0, Khobuntin 0, Javelona 0, Alejandro 0.
Quarterscores: 10-14; 25-31; 42-45; 57-55.