CEBU CITY - Reigning champions La Salle Green Archers slipped past Cebu champions Southwestern University, 59-54, in a thrilling, emotional game kicking off the Elite Eight stage of the 2014 Philippine Collegiate Champions League on Thursday at the Cebu Coliseum.
Rookie forward Prince Rivero made the game’s most important basket on a lay-up off a mad scramble that extended the Green Archers' precarious one-point lead to three, 57-54, with 32.9 seconds remaining.
The Cobras then flubbed a chance to inch closer, or tie the game with a three-pointers, as Daryl Goloran had the ball stolen from him by La Salle import Ben Mbala, setting up the two game-clinching free throws from Robert Bolick.
Jeron Teng led La Salle with 11 points while Rivero and point guard Thomas Torres wound up with nine apiece. Mbala scored six of his eight points in the final frame against the team he led to the Cesafi title just two years earlier.
After leading by two at halftime, 29-27, the Archers threatened to blow the game wide open in the third as Teng scored six of the team’s first seven points capped by a mid-range jumper that gave them a 36-27 lead, 8:02 left.
But the recently crowned Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (Cesafi) champions Cobras rallied behind former La Salle guard Mark Jayven Tallo, who scored eight of his 17 in the third canto to cut the deficit to 44-45.
Mbala, however, started asserting himself down low, scoring on a three-point play, an undergoal stab and a split from the line to put La Salle ahead, 55-50.
A three-pointer from Jasper Parker and a free-throw from Tallo got SWU within 54-55 with 1:03 to go, but La Salle won a wild loose ball scramble to set up a wide-open basket by Rivero, who also drew the fifth and last foul from SWU import Landry Sanjo.
Tallo led the way for the Cobras with 11 while Parker chipped in 15 markers. Sanjo finished with a solitary point in a woeful outing.
La Salle (59) – Teng 11, Rivero 9, Torres 9, Mbala 8, Pascual 6, Bolick 4, Torralba 2, Mustre 2
SWU (54) – Tallo 17, Parker 15, Valdor 7, Bregondo 6, Goloran 3, Luz 2, Sanjo 1
Quarterscores: 12-16, 29-27, 45-44, 59-54