MANILA, Philippines — La Salle staved off a gritty University of Santo Tomas side, 74-69, in their do-or-die Final Four game to forge a best-of-three championship series with the defending champion National University in the UAAP Season 85 women’s basketball tournament on Sunday at Mall of Asia Arena.
The Lady Archers leaned on the double-double performances of Fina Niantcho and Bettina Binaohan with the Cameroonian center leading the way with 18 points, 12 rebounds, two steals, and two blocks.
Binaohan posted 17 points on 3-of-5 shooting from deep to go with 10 boards, two assists, and two steals as she offered their win to the seniors and their past players with La Salle entering the Finals for the first time since Season 79 in 2016.
“I owe it to the seniors and the coaches, and supporters. We’re not been in the Finals for six years. We did this for our seniors who didn’t achieve their goals. That was our motivation this game,” said the La Salle forward in Filipino. So ‘yun po ang tanging motivation namin this game.
Charmine Torres also stepped up with 16 points, including the two free throws that sealed their best-of-three series against the Lady Bulldog, who are seeking their seven straight title, starting on Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“We failed to enter the finals for six years so we promised to coach Cholo (Villanueva) that we won’t end our career at La Salle without a championship. That’s our goal so we were determined this year,” said Torres, who also had eight rebounds and four assists.
La Salle led as many as nine with Binaohan hitting a triple for a 61-52 advantage with 7:30 remaining in the game. But UST refused to give up with Rocel Dionisio scoring five straight points to tie the game, 69-all, with 47.0 seconds left.
Binaohan stopped the bleeding with two free throws, 71-69. Joylyn Pangilinan missed a three-pointer on the next play but Brigette Santos got an offensive rebound only to overcook her putback. Tacky Tacatac got the ball but committed a shot clock violation.
Marga Jimenez split her free throws to push the lead to 72-69 before the MVP frontrunner Eka Soriano missed two crucial charities for UST with 8.4 ticks left but fouled out of the game after giving up a foul to Lee Sario.
Sario, who had 12 points, six rebounds, and four dimes, missed both of her freebies but got the board that led to Torres’ free throws that ended La Salle’s six-year Finals absence.
“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 adjustment on what they’re doing in their previous games,” La Salle coach Cholo Villanueva said.
UST, which beat La Salle in their first Final Four game with a wire-to-wire 68-57 victory last Wednesday, settled for bronze.
Agatha Bron led the Tigresses with 13 points, while Soriano had 10 points, nine boards, six assists, and three steals as they shot 29.7% from the field.
DLSU (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. Quarterscores: 21-18, 38-34, 57-50, 74-69
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