MANILA, Philippines — It all boiled down to who had more gas -- and composure -- in the end.
Cramped up and all, Jeron Teng rose to the occasion anew, leading De La Salle University to a heart-stopping 71-69 overtime win over University of Santo Tomas in Game 3 of the 76th UAAP men's basketball finals on Saturday, October 12 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The younger Teng's body failed him not once, but at least twice, but the Green Archer forward's will never relented and, in the end, his and his teammates' resilience and determination were rewarded with a UAAP title.
"We just didn't give up," said Teng, who finished with 25 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists while battling cramps late in the game and almost giving the game away with costly turnovers.
Back-to-back baskets from Kevin Ferrer and Jeric Teng pushed the Growling Tigers to a 69-67 lead with 34 seconds left.
And after Jeron Teng split his charities to move La Salle within one at 69-68, Aljon Mariano threw the ball away, setting the stage for what turned out to be a game-clinching basket by Almond Vosotros.
Jeron Teng attacked Mariano's defense before passing to Vosotros, who opted to come closer for an open jumper that gave the Archers a 70-69 advantage with 19 seconds remaining.
UST failed to buy a basket in the ensuing play and with the Tigers forced to foul to stay alive, La Salle guard LA Revilla made one of two free-throws to hike the Archers' lead to 71-69.
Karim Abdul then missed two potential game-winners inside the last 9.1 seconds as La Salle copped its first championship since 2007.
More improvement for La Salle
"No real difference. Just the same thing," said rookie coach Juno Sauler. "We played hard. We stood about it."
The win allowed Sauler to duplicate UST coach Pido Jarencio's feat as a coach who won the UAAP title in his first year at the helm.
Despite the inspiring triumph, Sauler isn't ready to rest on his laurels just yet, as the coach known for his all-business demeanor believes there is still a lot more room for improvement for his squad.
"We're looking forward to what we can improve next season," a stoic Sauler said. "I hope we can do better and not make the same mistakes we did, especially in the first round."
Teng was named the Finals MVP even as Almond Vosotros added 16 points and 5 rebounds and Jason Perkins bucked cramps late in the game to finish with 13 markers and 18 boards.
No support for Teng, Abdul
Jeric Teng starred once more for the Tigers with 24 points spiked by 4 triples, but the graduating gunner couldn't get the touches in the end game as he bade his collegiate career goodbye without a title.
Abdul was solid with 26 markers, 8 rebounds and 3 steals but no other Tiger finished in double-figures as Ferrer and Mariano shrank in the pressure of a winner-take-all matchup.
Ferrer, Mariano and senior guard Clark Bautista combined for a measly 14 points on 4 of 30 shooting for UST, who finished in second place for the second straight year.
DLSU (71) - Teng 25, Vosotros 16, Perkins 13, Van Opstal 11, T. Torres 4, N. Torres 1, Revilla 1, Tampus 0, Salem 0
UST (69) - Abdul 26, Teng 24, Ferrer 7, Bautista 4, Mariano 3, Sheriff 2, Lao 2, Pe 1
Quarters: 16-18, 24-32, 47-48, 65-65, 71-69