La Salle nabs twice-to-beat edge after holding off FEU

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LA REVILLA (left) of La Salle INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – Streaking De La Salle University averted a late collapse as it staved off Far Eastern Universty, 74-69, in a playoff for the second semifinal bonus in the UAAP Season 76 men’s basketball tournament Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

Veteran point guard LA Revilla starred with 20 points, including a triple near the left corner that pushed the Green Archers’ lead back to eight, 71-63, with 55.1 seconds left.

“[I feel] blessed. Binigay nila sa akin open shots [They gave me the open shots],” said Revilla, who shot six-of-11 from downtown and had three rebounds and three assists.

The Tamaraws battled back from 51-66 down in the fourth quarter behind their guards Gryann Mendoza and Terrence Romeo.

Romeo, the newly-minted league MVP, got it going in the second half with 19 points after struggling with just three points in the first two quarters.

Mendoza only had six points but his baskets came down the stretch. He sank a baseline jumper nearing the final minute as FEU pulled to within five, 63-68, before Revilla buried his final trey of the night.

Romeo cut the deficit back to five but the Tams just couldn’t capitalize on the Archers’ missed shots and miscues in the waning seconds of the game.

They (FEU) were clogging the paint. They opened the perimeter the way they were defending us,” said DLSU head coach Juno Sauler, whose squad has now won its every game since the second round to hike its winning streak to eight games.

“We just want to limit the shots that he (Romeo) takes. We just want to keep him challenged. We just have to get on Romeo every single time,” Sauler said of his team’s defense against the fiery FEU guard.

La Salle and FEU, which is now 3-5 after sweeping the first round of eliminations, begin their Final Four duel on Wednesday with the Archers holding an all-important twice-to-beat edge.

Though La Salle won and led majority of the game, Sauler feels that his team still has a lot to work on heading into the semifinals.

“We have to shoot better, defend better and lesser turnovers. We could have done better in the fourth. We just have to do a better job at closing games.”

“We shot well from the three. I guess we played good defense against them but there’s still a lot of work to be done we know they’re coming back.”

Forward Jeron Teng added a double-double for La Salle with 13 points and 10 rebounds to go along with five assists and two steals.

Meanwhile, National University, who claimed the top-seed due to superior quotient, shoots for the first Finals berth against University of Santo Tomas on Sunday in the other semifinals match.

The Growling Tigers, riding on their Cameroonian center Karim Abdul and graduating skipper Jeric Teng, ended the Ateneo Blue Eagles’ reign last Wednesday when both teams battled for the last semis slot.

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