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La Salle survives UST, makes finals

De La Salle University relied on its steady hands at the foul line to survive a fourth-quarter storm mounted by University of Santo Tomas and essay a 74-69 victory in a do-or-die match for the last finals seat in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 85 women’s basketball tournament yesterday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Lady Archers scored all of their last five points from the free throw line after the Tigresses blasted an 8-1 rally that knotted the game at 69 with 47 seconds left to advance to the Finals for the first time in six years.

La Salle will face seven-peat-seeking National University in the best-of-three finals starting Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in a rematch of the 2016 championship.

Cameroonian Fina Niantcho Tchuido led the Lady Archers with 18 points and 12 rebounds, Bettina Binaohan also had a double-double of 17 markers and 10 boards.

“I’d like to give credit to UST they played one hell of a series against us but we were the better team this time around. We made the proper adjustments on what they are doing on their previous games,” La Salle coach Cholo Villanueva said.

The second seed Lady Archers were forced to use its Final Four twice-to-beat advantage after dropping the series opener, 57-68, last 30 November.

In the sudden death, La Salle again had a close call.

The Season 82 runner-up Tigresses erased a 68-61 deficit with a telling run capped by a Rocel Dionisio basket off a nifty pass from projected Most Valuable Player winner Eka Soriano to tie the game.

Bettina Binaohan drained her pair of foul shots to put La Salle up by two, 71-69, with 31.2 ticks left.

UST got two chances in their possession, but Joylyn Pangilinan bricked her triple, Bridgette Santos got the offensive rebound but missed her putback.

Soriano secured another possession for UST but was called for a 24-second shot clock violation.

Marga Jimenez split her foul shots to give La Salle a 72-69 lead.

Soriano crumbled under pressure as she missed both her free throws with 8.4 seconds left before Charmine Torres sealed the win with two more charities for the Lady Archers.

Torres added 16 points while Lee Sario got 12 for La Salle.

Niantcho Tchuido went 6-of-11 from the field in the first half, scoring 13 points and grabbing seven boards to help keep the Lady Archers up at halftime, 38-34.

Agatha Bron finished with 13 points while Soriano got 10 markers, nine rebounds, six assists, three steals and a block for the bronze medalist Tigresses.


The scores:

La Salle (74) — Niantcho 18, Binaohan 17, Torres 16, Sario 12, Jimenez 5, Dalisay 3, Arciga 2, De La Paz 1, Camba 0, Ahmed 0, Espinas 0.

UST (69) — Bron 13, Soriano 10, Dionisio 9, Villasin 8, Tacatac 8, Pangilinan 8, Ambos 8, Serrano 3, Santos 2.

Quarters: 21-18, 38-34, 57-50, 74-69.

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