Manila, Philippines – After six years of frustration, La Salle returned to its place as the kingpin of the UAAP.
The Green Archers ended a long journey toward regaining lost glory when they survived a 15-point third quarter deficit and the persistence of University of Santo Tomas for a thrilling 71-69 overtime victory to capture their eighth crown last night in front of 23,396 fans at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Almond Vosotros capitalized on a costly error by UST’s Aljon Mariano by hitting a baseline jumper that gave La Salle a 70-69 lead with 19.6 seconds left in the extra period before the Tigers’ Karim Abdul failed to convert on his team’s last three tries.
Abdul’s final chance at saving the Tigers from the agony of defeat came on the last play when he attempted a wide-open three from the right corner. But the 6-foot-6 Cameroonian, who rarely hit from long range, saw his shot sail nowhere and the Archers began to celebrate amid the falling of white confetti.
Juno Sauler became the first rookie coach to win the championship since his UST counterpart Pido Jarencio pulled the trick back in 2006.
The soft-spoken Sauler weathered an early storm. He assumed the role three weeks before the season when Gee Abanilla moved to the PBA with Petron then had to deal with late-game collapses and a 3-4 first round before La Salle won 10 of the final 11 games.
It was a fairytale ending for Sauler, who was not only drenched with pink Gatorade by his players but also given a victory ride that ordained him a certified hero.
“It’s a great learning experience, not just me but for the whole team,” said Sauler, who before the finals bared that he laughed at a video of his team’s first game of the season, ironically against UST. see more