A HOT-STARTING De La Salle withstood a late scare from Southwestern University to score a 64-54 victory and take Game One of the Philippine Collegiate Champions League Finals on Monday at The Arena in San Juan.
The Green Archers saw their huge 22-point fourth-quarter lead cut to more than half, but built enough cushion to hold off their upset-conscious opponents and avenge their 58-68 overtime loss to the same team in the single-round semifinals.
“Last time we were relaxed. This time, it’s the Finals and we really wanted to win,” said Jeron Teng, who registered a game-high 18 points, along with six boards and five assists a day after being named the Smart Player of the Year by the UAAP-NCAA Press Corps.
The Archers can capture their second crown in five years with a win in Game Two on Tuesday.
“It’s hard if they can adjust, unless they practice, so I’ll just let the players know how I felt about the game, what they did well and what they need to improve on and hopefully turn things better tomorrow,” said Archers coach Juno Sauler, whose team won’t go through another practice.
The rest is beneficial for injured Archers Almond Vosotros (sprained ankle), Kib Montalbo (elbow), Matt Salem (back spasms), and Arnold Van Opstal, who all played limited minutes.
Teng poured in all but two of his scoring output in the first three quarters, where the reigning UAAP champions enjoyed a comfortable cushion while clamping down on the Cobras.
La Salle actually committed more turnovers, 20-18, but capitalized on every SWU error, which translated to 20 points off turnovers.
But the Cobras, showing they deserve to be in the title round, tried to crawl out of a 37-59 deficit and made a game out of it.
African slotman Landy Sanjo spearheaded the comeback, scoring 11 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, capped off by a short jumper that cut the deficit to single digits, 52-61, with a little over three minutes to go.
The Archers’ two Torres, Thomas and Norbert, provided ample support to Teng as they emerged as the other double-figure scorers.
De La Salle (64) – Teng 18, T. Torres 15, N. Torres 10, Reyes 9, Bollick 5, Perkins 4, Dela Paz 3, Vosotros 0, Montalbo 0, Salem 0, Van Opstal 0, Tampus 0
SWU (54) – Sanjo 16, Arong 11, Goloran 7, Mohammed 6, Tallo 6, Bregondo 4, Siewe 2, Bautista 2, Holper 0
Quarterscores: 21-8, 34-21, 54-32, 64-54