There were only two sides. The green side and the yellow side. Before the appointed playoff both teams invoked power prayer to their respective patron saints. The Growling Tigers said, “Lord, thy will be done.” The Green Archers were more specific, “Please, let us win.” Both teams played their darndest on rainy Saturday afternoon as if the sun would never rise the following day.
Whose prayer was answered and how?
Firs to score was La Salle, with Jeron Teng making the two free throw baskets. His older brother Jeric made a three-point shot for UST. At the end of the first quarter the score was 16-18 with Kevin Ferrer making a three-point shot to overtake DLSU. It was exciting play for UST from there as both Karim Abdul and Jeric made successive baskets. At halftime the score was 32-24 in favor of the Tigers.
The deficit went as high as 15 points, UST leading DLSU 40-25 . Almond Vosotros and Jeron made successive shoots, cutting UST’s lead to 40-29. Abdul answered for UST but rookie Jason Perkins and Arnold Van Opstal (AVO) gave DLSU two points each. The score before timeout was called was 40-33.
In this exciting part of the play, it was only Abdul who scored for UST. On the green side, AVO, Perkins, Jeron, Vosotros and Torres contributed to their team’s score. At the end of the third quarter, UST was ahead by only one point.
After a Perkins shot, Jeric made his own to even the score at 50-50. Jeron countered to make a two-point lead for La Salle 52-50. An Abdul layup evened it out to make the 6th deadlock of the game at 52-52.
There was a lot of drama during the fourth quarter–Ferrer hurt his throat when he rammed into the almost static AVO, AVO had a bloody nose, Jeron was hurt and fouled by Jeric, Perkins had cramps, same with Jeron. At the end of the game it was 65-all.
An overtime ensued. Vosotros shot and Ferrer answered. It was the 11th deadlock at 67-all. In the remaining seconds UST was breathless as DLSU was getting sure to be the champ at 71-69. The buzzer went off and the Green Archers were proclaimed UAAP 76 Basketball champs. Green and white confetti rained on the floor of Mall of Asia Arena. The whole De La Salle community was in jubilation.
Jeric wanted to win for UST so much as this was his last game. He was not ashamed to cry out his disappointment. Jeron, on the other hand, seek out his brother. When he finally saw him they hugged as any close brothers do.
Jeron was proclaimed Finals MVP. He was Rookie of the Year last year. In his interview after the game he said brother Jeric was deserving to be MVP. He had mixed emotions–happy for his team’s triumph but sad for Jeric because he worked so hard and wanted the win so badly.
So whose prayer was answered?
Definitely it was DLSU’s, but the Growling Tigers said they are going to roar even harder and stronger next year. Had they won the title, UST’s feat would have been one for the books–the fourth seed eliminating the first seed and eventually winning the championship. But DLSU’s win was also a record. They were on a 9-game winning streak, eliminating FEU and came from behind, as they lost the first game.
The UST community said that Aljon Mariano will be most remembered for this game. As for the reason, some Thomasians were saying they won’t even send him to Chowking, whatever that means.
A new attendance record of 23,305 was posted. Millions were glued to their TV sets at home, with thousands of both DLSU and UST students watching the game in giant screens mounted at strategic locations in their respective schools.
La Salle’s battle cry “Keep the Faith (for ‘The spirit of FAITH and ZEAL drives us — St. La Salle’)” really worked for them.
Congratulations, Green Archers! Animo La Salle!