While a bigger share of the spotlight focused on highly-touted Cameroon import Ben Mbala, La Salle’s ace wingman Jeron Teng made sure he won’t be easily left in the dark.
The 6-foot-2 Teng proved clutch anew on Wednesday night, helping the Green Archers overcome defending champion Far Eastern U in a frantic finish 83-78 to get their UAAP Season 79 men’s basketball title bid off to a strong start at the Mall of Asia Arena.
With the Tamaraws’ defense more focused on slowing down the 6-foot-7 Mbala, Teng seized his chance in the crunch where he fired 10 of his 28 markers, including the team’s final eight points that kept the Green Archers’ head above waters in the last 2:14 of play.
Teng admitted the confidence being given to him—and his teammates—by La Salle’s first-year coach Aldin Ayo is immediately paying off.
“Binibigyan niya kami ng confidence to shoot when you’re open. We just have to be responsible. If you think na masho-shoot mo, i-shoot mo,” he said.
The presence of the do-it-all Mbala also gives Teng and the Green Archers added confidence to take—and make—shots.
“You can see he really dominated the rebounding category,” said Teng of Mbala, who hauled down a game-high 23 rebounds, 10 of them on the offensive end, on top of 13 points and flour blocks.
“Alam mo ‘yun, kapag tumitira ka tapos alam mo na may Ben Mbala ka, kumpiyansa ka lang kasi alam mong pupulitin niya ang bola.”
Teng also proved steady from the perimeter as he made 11 of his 21 attempts inside the arc, stretching the Tamaraws’ defense that allowed Mbala and the other Archers big men to have more space to operate down low.
A three-time UAAP Mythical Team member, Teng admitted winning this year’s ultimate prize remains his top priority—and not the highest individual award.
“‘Yung MVP hindi ko iniisip ‘yun dahil for me as a player ang goal ko naman is for the team to win the championship and nothing else,” he stressed. – By Jerome Lagunzad
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