'Chess match' begins as UST, La Salle battle in Game 1
MANILA, Philippines – The De La Salle Green Archers and the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers try to draw first blood when Game 1 of the UAAP Season 76 men’s basketball finals tips off at the Araneta Coliseum Wednesday afternoon.
The Green Archers, making their first Finals appearance since Season 71, are on a nine-game winning streak, while the Growling Tigers, back in the Finals for the second straight season, have won three straight.
“Since our win against Ateneo (in the second round), we’ve been playing well,” graduating UST star Jeric Teng said. “As you can see, all of our players na ipasok ni Coach Pido (Jarencio), nakaka-contribute, and I think we play much better defense now.”
Jeric said the Tigers’ championship experience will be a big factor in the best-of-three series.
“We’ve been here before,” he pointed out. “I think may idea na kami of how we should play, and I think we’re ready. Ang mga players namin are very experienced and very positive coming into this game.”
The Green Archers are hoping that their depth and huge frontline can make up for their lack of Finals experience.
“Sa line-up namin, from player one to our last player, I think we can all contribute,” said La Salle’s Jeron Teng. “We have a deeper bench, compared to UST.”
La Salle’s biggest advantage against UST is likely their frontline, with the trio of Arnold Van Opstal, Norbert Torres and Jason Perkins matching up against UST’s Karim Abdul and back-up Paulo Pe.
“We’ve got Norbert Torres and Jason Perkins,” said Van Opstal. “If Abdul and I cancel each other out, I don’t think anyone can guard Norbert and Jason. So definitely, we have the advantage in the post.”
A close, physical encounter can be expected in Game 1, especially considering how the two squads have split their games in the last couple of seasons.
“First game, so hindi maiiwasana lahat ‘yan. Sobrang mabilisan ‘yung game na ‘yan, walang pahinga ‘yan,” Jeric says. “And I think magiging close ‘yung game. It’s a tough one to call, kasi ever since last year, talagang split ‘yung games namin sa eliminations, and this time, split din.”
“I think, sobrang even ‘yung match-up namin. Sila, I think mas malaki sila, pero kami, I think we’re more versatile, mas mabibilis kami. Mas mahahaba ‘yung wing men namin, and sa kanila, mas malalaki ‘yung big men nila,” he added.
“I think, chess match ‘yung game.”
Jeron guaranteed that it will be a “tough series.” “Anything can happen,” he said.