La Salle survived Far Eastern University in a low-scoring, error-prone ballgame last night, 62-59, to earn the No. 2 spot and a twice-to-beat incentive in the Final Four of the 71st UAAP season.
The Green Archers started slow and were held to just eight points in the first quarter. But they picked up steam in the third period, pulling away before holding off the Tamaraws’ late stand.
The game featured a combined 46 turnovers from both teams – La Salle with 18 and FEU with a mind-boggling 28 that matched the season-high previously held by National University.
La Salle will carry the twice-to-beat edge against FEU when the Final Four begins on Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum. Ateneo, the No. 1 team, will enjoy the same edge against No. 4 University of the East.
Victories by La Salle and Ateneo on Sunday will pave the way for a best-of-three championship series that should break previous UAAP records in attendance and demand for tickets.
“We were tight. I don’t know if it’s because the weather was so cold. But as we played bad, played terrible, we were down just by two at the half,” said La Salle coach Franz Pumaren.
“I think they dedicated this game to me because when I came home from Tehran we lost (to Ateneo last Saturday),” added Pumaren who drew 16 points from JV Casio.
La Salle trailed, 15-23, when shooting forward Mac Baracael of FEU drained a triple from the top of the key. But things suddenly changed and in just a short span La Salle was in control.
The Green Archers took their biggest lead at 56-41 with six minutes left, but the Tamaraws clawed back and a couple of times threatened to regain the upperhand.
Until the dying seconds, FEU had a chance to extend the game but JR Cawaling missed a triple at the buzzer.