A season full of expectations and promise was finally fulfilled as La Salle muscled their way back to collegiate basketball supremacy with a 79-72 victory over Ateneo to complete a two game sweep in the UAAP Men’s basketball tournament finals, Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coiseum.
Playing the final game of his UAAP career, Jeron Teng put out a fitting encore as he scored 28 points to tie a season best and power the Green Archers to the promised land for the first time since 2013.
Teng’s exploits was enough for him to be named as the Finals Most Valuable Player as he averaged 19 points on 52 percent shooting, and came out with big plays down the stretch in Game One.
It was Teng’s second time to win the coveted award as he also starred for the Green Archers when they outlasted the UST Tigers back in Season 76.
“Right from the start talagang binigay ko na ang lahat ko for La Salle,” Teng said.
“Talagang binigay ko na lahat kasi ito na e, last game ko na to, talagang kailangan ibigay ko na lahat,” he added.
Teng scored 19 points in the first half alone to set the tone early for the Green Archers as they took a quick 45-35, a lead which they padded to 14 following a Kib Montalbo three pointer with 7:17 remaining in the third.
The Blue Eagles had one more fight in them as they displayed the type of resolve and character which pushed them into this state in the first place.
With Mike Nieto and Raffy Verano leading Ateneo’s attack, the Blue Eagles cut the lead to just four 73-69.
Unfortunately for them, Ben Mbala had no more plans of playing one more game as he scored the next four points for La Salle and had one crucial steal as the Green Archers fended off the Blue Eagles for the second straight game.
“Sobrang hirap nito. Sobrang gagaling ng mga coaches, grabe ang pressure. Buti nalang magagaling ang mga players ko,” said La Salle head coach Aldin Ayo who won in his very first year handling La Salle, the same feat he achieved with etran last year.
“Wala na akong ibang iniisip. Inisip ko lang talaga maibalik yung championship sa La Salle,” he added.
Mbala finished with another double-double as he scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Montalbo added nine points, four rebounds and three assists while rookie of the year Aljun Melecio had another solid outing off the bench with seven points.
Mike Nieto paced the Blue Eagles with 18 points as Verano and Adrian Wong added 10 points apiece.
It was a disappointing ending for Ateneo’s big guns as Thirdy Ravena failed to make a single field goal, finishing with three points on 0-10 shooting while Aaron Black was limited to just two points on just 1-4 shooting.