De La Salle nips FEU for last Final Four slot, sets up clash with Ateneo
MANILA, Philippines—De La Salle faced a double-digit deficit before Norbert Torres came alive and towed the Green Archers to a 69-66 comeback win over Far Eastern University to earn the last Final Four spot in the UAAP Season 75 men’s basketball tournament at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Torres unleashed 11 of his 21 points in the final frame, including five straight points that gave La Salle the lead, 64-60, with 2:23 left.
“Matagal na naming pinapangarap na makabalik sa Final Four. We have a golden chance to do it (tonight). We just refused to lose,” said DLSU head coach Gee Abanilla.
The Green Archers, who missed last year’s semifinals after a disappointing sixth-place finish, set up a date with defending champion and fierce rival Ateneo.
And Abanilla knows it won’t be easy going up against the team, which swept them in the elimination round.
“We’ll need all the advantage we could get. I hope Ateneo gets rusty,” said Abanilla.
Clear-cut Rookie of the Year winner Jeron Teng added 15 points but earned every bit of it as FEU played him well all game long.
Almond Vosotros chipped in with nine points and none bigger than his long three-pointer that made it just a one-point FEU lead, 60-59.
The Tamaraws, who missed the Final Four for the first time since 2007, couldn’t buy a basket as the Archers kept coming.
RR Garcia misfired on several shots late as well as Terrence Romeo, whose missed three led to a fastbreak layup plus the foul by Thomas Torres that extended La Salle’s lead to seven, 67-60, with 38.6 seconds left.
Garcia and Romeo atoned for their missed shots with a pair of quick threes in just eight seconds to pull FEU to within one, 66-67, with still 30 ticks left.
“First thing is not to panic. All we need is a good inbound. It’s a good thing we were able to pass it around,” said Abanilla in the dying seconds of the game.
The Archers, who had 13 turnovers in the first half, bucked a slow start that Abanilla attributed to his players being too excited about the game.
La Salle though, loosened up just in time to pull off the come-from-behind win thanks to a 17-0 run.
The Tamaraws, who finished runners-up to the Blue Eagles the last two seasons, at one point were in first place in the standings and just weeks back were still in the hunt for a twice-to-beat incentive before a three-game collapse had them packing up early.
An Anthony Hargrove drive put FEU up, 60-50, at the 6:43 mark in the final frame. Unfortunately for the Tamaraws, it turned out to be their last basket for over six minutes.
The Final Four starts on Saturday with No. 2 University of Santo Tomas facing host National University in the first game at 12 noon while the De La Salle-Ateneo clash begins at 4 p.m. to be held at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
FEU blew its chance to forge overtime after Mike Tolomia turned the ball over on a traveling violation with 3.5 seconds remaining.
Vosotros was fouled in the ensuing play and went one-of-two with 2.5 ticks left. The Tams had no timeouts left and just settled for a near full-court heave by Romeo, which had no chance of going in.
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