Sibling rivalry highlights La Salle-UST finals clash

Chris Lagunzad

This early, the Teng family can now start popping the champagne.

Former pro Alvin Teng couldn’t help but be thrilled that his celebrated sons–Jeric and Jeron–will take centerstage when University of Santo Tomas and De La Salle University square off for the UAAP Season 76 men’s cage title that unfolds this Wednesday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

Wearing a yellow polo shirt with black stripes, Alvin, along with Jeron, proudly egged on Jeric all game long during the Growling Tigers’ 76-69 victory against the favored National U Bulldogs in their do-or-die match last Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The victory enabled fourth-ranked UST to overhaul the twice-to-beat disadvantage of NU, the eliminations topnotcher, in the semifinals and pave the way for an intriguing best-of-three battle against the streaking La Salle, which ousted Far Eastern U last week.

This is the first time in recent UAAP history that two brothers will play on opposing teams in the UAAP finals, and this development no doubt pleased Alvin and his wife Susan. “Siyempre masayang-masaya ako,” he told Yahoo! Philippines while waiting for his Jeric to emerge from UST’s dugout.

And no matter what happens Alvin is already proud of his sons’ achievements, saying: “Kahit sino manalo sa kanila, champion na sila parehas para sa amin.”

A known bruiser in the pro ranks during his heyday, Alvin also disclosed their family will be on neutral ground in the finals. “Basta maglaro lang sila ng maayos. Pride ng kanilang school ang nakataya dyan. Basta suporta lang kami sa kanilang dalawa. Kung sino makaka-shoot, cheer lang kami,” he said.

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With his “kuya” Jeric’s wish granted, the 19-year-old Jeron was also excited about their matchup.

“Siyempre happy ako dahil ‘yun ang last wish ng brother ko before he ends his college career–na makaabot ng finals at magkalaban pa kami. Two or three more games pa,” said the younger Teng.

Although armed with a nine-game winning streak and plenty of rest, La Salle should not take UST lightly, according to Jeron.

“The team (UST) is very composed. They were making their outside shots and their defense was very solid. For us, it’s not going to be easy. UST is a strong team. Nakita niyo naman tinalo nila and NU twice so UST is a tough team to beat,” he pointed out.

Feeling blessed to get back to the finals despite an up-and-down stint that saw him sideline for several games due to shoulder and hamstring injuries in the eliminations, Jeric, 22, wants to finish his fifth and final year on a high note.

"Siyempre gustong-gusto nila mag-champion dahil matagal na ring hindi nag-champion ang La Salle. Kami gustong-gusto rin namin mag-champion, lalo pa ngayong maganda ang tinatakbo ng team namin,” he said.

While Jeron is expected to stay in the Archers’ quarters, Jeric, sounding grateful, disclosed he will be staying with their family at their own house.

"Sinabi niya (Jeron) sa akin nung manalo sila na hihintayin niya ako sa finals. Sabi ko God's will na lang yan, kung gusto Niya pumasok kami. Thankfully, pumasok naman," he said.

With the league’s bragging rights on the line, expect the brotherly love between Jeric and Jeron to take a backseat, at least for this coming week.