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Archers escape by the skin of their teeth

De La Salle barely survived a tenacious comeback by UST in the second half to escape with a 74-71 victory today. The team finishes the first round tied with FEU for third and fourth at 4-3.

With the way the team played in the first half, we thought they would easily walk away with the win. But UST fought back as they slowly chipped away La Salle’s once comfortable 23-point halftime lead to a single point in the closing seconds of the match. The Tigers outscored the Archers 44-25 in the final two quarters.

The first quarter saw the Archers jumping off to an early lead with Arnold Van Opstal scoring 5 quick points. Norbert Torres ignited the team offense upon entering the game as he scored several baskets off pick-and-roll plays. With Oda Tampus leading the fastbreak attack, the Archers finished the opening period with a 26-14 lead.

It was the same story in the second quarter as Torres threw his weight around the paint against the smaller Santo Tomas frontline. He was simply unstoppable down low and was relentless on defense. The Archers controlled the tempo with a tightfisted defense and crisp passing game to grab a 49-27 lead heading to the break.

Come start of the third quarter, the Tigers crawled back to the game. Led by DLSZ Alumnus Jeric Fortuna, Jeric Teng and rookie Karim Abdul, UST was able to chop down the lead to 12 points. Suddenly, the aggressiveness and confidence the Archers showed earlier disappeared. Just like in their game against NU, the team struggled to make a basket. Even Torres, who had 15 first half points found it hard to score against the Tigers’ defense.

UST had the momentum to start the final period as they continued with their scoring barrage. The defense was not there as the Tigers’ perimeter sniping and inside incursions sliced the lead further to 5 points at the 8 minute mark. Three successive treys by Luigi De la Paz and Joseph Marata helped fend off a furious UST rally. La Salle was hanging on to a 69-63 lead entering the final two minutes.

An Abdul basket followed by a couple of free throws by Teng helped UST pull within 3 points with 46 seconds remaining. A La Salle turnover in the ensuing play allowed the Tigers to convert another lay-up to put them within a point with 18 ticks left. Oda missed two free throws but grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled again. Fortunately, he was able to sink both charities this time to make it a 3 point lead by La Salle. The Tigers still had a chance to tie the game but their three-point attempt fell short as time expired.

We were just protecting the lead, we were not attacking their defense” said coach Dindo Pumaren, who saw two of his guards leave the game due to injury.

Simon Atkins, who played well in the first half, hit his head on the hardwood after colliding with Abdul early in the third quarter. He was carried off the court and did not return to the ballgame. Luigi likewise came down late in the game with a swollen ankle. Joshua Webb did not suit up today as he was confined in the hospital due to suspected dengue.

It was another great performance for Norbert as he scores 21 points, grabbed 8 rebounds and swatted 5 shots. Oda and Maui Villanueva added 14 and 10 points respectively for the Archers, who were 12 of 20 from the foul line.

With the win, the Green Archers set the stage for an early grudge match with the Adamson Falcons this Sunday.

Box scores:

DLSU 74 – Torres 21, Tampus 14, Villanueva 10, de la Paz 8, Marata 6, Atkins 6, Van Opstal 5, Revilla 2, Vosotros 2, Gotladera 0, Mendoza 0, Andrada 0

UST 71 – Abdul 21, Fortuna 20, Teng 14, Camus 7, Afuang 4, Ferrer 3, Lo 2, Vigil 0, Tan 0, Sheriff 0, Lao 0 , Pe 0, Ungria 0

Quarter scoring: 26-14; 49-27; 56-44; 74-71