UE crawls back late to beat La Salle in crucial tiff

By Ivan Saldajeno

In their third straight must-win match, the UE Red Warriors unleashed a game-deciding 17-5 run to keep their hopes of making the UAAP men's basketball Final Four alive with a 68-66 win against the De La Salle Green Archers at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.

The Red Warriors lost a 15-point advantage built late in the second quarter and trailed by as much as ten, 51-61, with 4:05 remaining in the game.

Paul Varilla's layup, however, started a 9-0 UE rally in a two-minute span to cut La Salle's lead to one with 2:03 left. A layup by Charles Mammie, who struggled offensively in the entire game, capped the run.

Jeron Teng increased the Archers' edge after scoring on a layup against the Warriors' defense while drawing a foul.

Teng, however, missed the bonus free throw, and Mammie got hacked after grabbing the rebound. Mammie split his charities to trim UE's deficit to two again.

Kib Montalbo missed on a jumper on the other end, and in the next play, Bong Galanza converted his own jump shot to tie the game, 63-all, with 55.4 seconds to go.

Almond Vosotros tried to penetrate for a layup, but he lost the ball to Dan Alberto, who went all the way for the go-ahead layup. Alberto, who got fouled by Teng in the play, made the bonus free throw to up UE's lead to three, 66-63.

Teng attempted to drive to the lane too, but he also lost the ball, this time to Roi Sumang, who sank a free throw to increase the Red Warriors' advantage to four with 19.3 left.

Montalbo missed on a rush triple in the next play, but he got the ball back and found Vosotros for his own trey to keep the Green Archers in the game with 1.7 seconds remaining.

Norbert Torres quickly fouled Chris Javier, who split from the line to just put UE's lead up to two again.

La Salle went for an outlet pass for a potential game-tying play, but Sumang sealed UE's win with a steal at the final buzzer.

Galanza had 21 points, ten in the crucial payoff frame, and seven rebounds, while Sumang added 14 markers and five steals off the bench for the Red Warriors, who went up to 8-5 and moved to within a half-game of the NU Bulldogs for fourth and the last Final Four. The Bulldogs play the UST Growling Tigers as of press time.

Teng had a game-high 23 points, nine rebounds, and four assists for the Green Archers, but he only made 8-of-14 from the charity stripe and accounted for six of their 29 errors.

La Salle's hopes of grabbing a twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four were put into jeopardy as it fell to 9-4, a full game behind idle Ateneo and FEU for the top two spots.

The Green Archers need to beat the Bulldogs in a Saturday night action at the Big Dome to force a playoff for the second twice-to-beat edge against the losers of the Blue Eagles-Tamaraws showdown earlier in the day, virtually turning their potential semifinal affair into a best-of-three.

Box Scores:

UE 68-Galanza 21, Sumang 14, Javier 8, Alberto 6, Jumao-as 6, Mammie 4, Arafat 3, Varilla 2, De Leon 2, Palma 2, Guiang 0, Olayon 0

La Salle 66-Teng 23, Vosotros 11, Sargent 10, N. Torres 7, Rivero 7, Montalbo 6, Van Opstal 2, Perkins 0, Andrada 0

Quarterscores: 15-13, 36-22, 43-39, 68-66
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