Jeron Teng saved the day for La Salle as the team opened the UAAP men's basketball finals with a 67-65 win against Ateneo at the Mall of Asia Arena on Saturday night.
The 6-foot-2 wingman scored on a go-ahead layup and got a crucial defensive gem down the stretch as the Green Archers took a 1-0 lead in their best-of-three tie with the Blue Eagles.
La Salle went on a hot start, opening a 16-2 lead.
But Ateneo slowly chipped away the lead and took it, 65-64, on a Matt Nieto basket with 34.6 seconds remaining.
He actually had a chance to extend the lead after he was fouled in the said layup, but he missed the bonus charity and Thirdy Ravena lost the ball while going for the second chance, setting up Teng's clinching lay-in with 15.1 seconds to go.
Aaron Black had one final chance to steal the win for the Eagles, but Teng blocked his jumper and the Archers got the ball back.
Kib Montalbo kept the door open for Ateneo to take the win as he only made one of two free throws with 3.3 seconds left, but with no timeout left, Adrian Wong had to run the full court and launch a half-court shot that only hit the backboard as time expired.
Ben Mbala led La Salle with 20 points, 15 rebounds, one assist, one block, and two steals, while Aljun Melecio added 12 points, four rebounds, and one assist.
Black finished with 12 markers, eight caroms, and three dimes for Ateneo.
The Green Archers can clinch the title on Wednesday, 4 p.m., at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.
La Salle 67-Mbala 20, Melecio 12, Teng 10, Sargent 7, Torres 5, Montalbo 4, P. Rivero 3, Tratter 3, R. Rivero 2, Caracut 1, Perkins 0, Baltazar 0
Ateneo 65-Black 12, Wong 9, Ikeh 8, Mi. Nieto 8, Ravena 8, Go 6, Ma. Nieto 5, Verano 5, Asistio 2, Tolentino 2, Mendoza 0, Porter 0
Quarterscores: 19-6, 36-26, 52-52, 67-65
Source: Philippines News Agency