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UAAP: La Salle nips FEU

La Salle's Ricci Rivero attempts a layup against FEU's Barkley Ebona (right) and Kenneth Tuffin (MB photo | Rio Leonelle Deluvio)

La Salle’s Ricci Rivero attempts a layup against FEU’s Barkley Ebona (right) and Kenneth Tuffin (MB photo | Rio Leonelle Deluvio)

By Jerome Lagunzad

Games Saturday (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
2 p.m. – UE vs NU
4 p.m. – Ateneo vs Adamson

Defending champion La Salle’s “Mayhem” defense is still nowhere near its most menacing form, but the Green Archers can always rely on their loaded offensive arsenal.

Backup Jollo Go emerged as the unlikely source of production down the stretch as La Salle survived host Far Eastern University, 75-73, last night and put its UAAP Season 80 basketball title campaign back on track at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

The 5-foot-10 Go came off the bench and fired 14 points, five of them coming in the crunch that enabled the Green Archers to gain the needed separation before coming through with one final stop to scuttle the Tamaraws’ last-gasp bid.

The hard-earned victory could serve as a perfect tonic for La Salle, which found a way to recover from a painful one-point loss to archrival Ateneo last Sunday and improve to 6-2 overall, moving into solo second spot.

FEU suffered its second straight loss and fourth overall against four victories, allowing University of the Philippines to gain a share of fourth spot following its equally tough 71-69 win over University of Santo Tomas earlier in the day.

Wingman Ricci Rivero continued his resurgence with 20 points on top of five steals and four assists while reigning league MVP Ben Mbala delivered his usual numbers of 18 points and 17 rebounds but it was the lefty Go who kept the Green Archers’ neck above waters in the critical juncture.

“Grabe ‘yung binibigay nilang confidence sa akin. ‘When you’re open, just take it.’ ‘Yan ang lagi nilang sinasabi sa akin,” said the former Hope Christian High School standout who knocked down his fourth triple plus a step-back jumper that stretched La Salle’s lead to 72-65 with more than three minutes to play.

The Tamaraws, however, kept fighting back and scored eight of the next 10 points, the last of them off Cameroonian Prince Orizu’s dunk off a Ron Dennison drop pass that pulled them within one with 2.2 seconds to play.

Rivero, fouled by Tuffin in the ensuing play, had the chance to seal the deal for La Salle, but split his freebies, the last hitting just the board that resulted to a violation and allowed FEU to map out a potential game-winning play with 2.2 seconds to play.

But the Green Archers won’t be denied as veteran Andrei Caracut stole Dennison’s inbound pass intended to a cutting Orizu to the dismay of the Tamaraws’ supporters just as the final buzzer sounded.

First Game
UP 71 – Jaboneta 12, Manzo 11, Desiderio 10, Ju. Gomez de Liano 9, Ouattara 9, Lin 6, Vito 6, Ja. Gomez de Liano 4, Romero 2, Prado 2, Ricafort 0, Lao 0, Dario 0.

UST 69 – Lee 17, Soriano 14, Sta. Ana 13, Akomo 7, Basibas 5, Macasaet 5, Romero 4, Huang 2, Faundo 2, De Guzman 0, Caunan 0, Kwawukumey 0, Garcia 0.

Quarters: 15-17, 40-32, 61-55, 71-69.

Second Game
LA SALLE 75 – Rivero R. 20, Mbala 18, Go 14, Rivero P. 8, Caracut 7, Santillan 3, Tratter 3, Montalbo 2, Gonzales 0, Paraiso 0.

FEU 73 – Tuffin 14, Cani 13, Dennison 10, Parker 9, Eboña 8. Escoto 7, Orizu 7, Iñigo 3, Ramirez 2, Stockton 0, Trinidad 0, Comboy 0.

Quarters: 18-13, 39-35, 62-56, 75-73.