MANILA, September 19, 2003 (STAR) By Joey Villar  - Jun Jun Cabatu banged in a buzzer-beating triple from the top of the key as La Salle came from behind yesterday to shock University of the East, 65-64, for a morale-boosting victory heading into the Final Four of the 66th UAAP basketball tournament at the Araneta Coliseum.

Trailing, 62-64, with 4.3 seconds to go, La Salle opted for an inbound at the UE court with rookie JV Casio zig-zagging downcourt before dishing off a pass to Cabatu, left wide-open by a frantic UE defense. He then fired the trey shot that swished through the net for the game-winner.

"We designed a formation for JV to get the ball and set up whoever is free," said La Salle coach Franz Pumaren.

But more that Cabatu’s late game heroics, it was rookie Ryan Arana who was the biggest revelation as the former Colegio de San Lorenzo high school standout erupted for a career-high 24 points that more than made up for the absence of Mark Cardona and TY Tang.

Cardona injured his left knee and ankle late in the first quarter and was rushed to St. Lukes Hospital while Tang was in playing uniform but was not used because of a sprained left ankle he sustained in last week’s Ateneo-La Salle duel.

The victory hardly moved the Archers from fourth place but it did give some measure of pride while boosting the confidence of the Archers, who will have to beat the No. 1 team in the Final Four twice to gain a crack at the crown.

However, the Warriors, who wound up with 10-4 card, filed a protest minutes after the game as they contested that Cabatu’s shot should’ve been nullified, claiming the ball was released after the time had expired.

The technical committee, headed by commissioner Joe Lipa and the UAAP board, is still deliberating the issue at presstime.

The win likewise foiled the Warriors’ bid for a twice-to-beat edge. UE, which hoped for a victory to force a triple-tie for first with Ateneo and FEU, finished third at the close of the elims and will face the No. 2 squad.

UE’s loss gave defending champion Ateneo and Far Eastern University, both with identical 11-3 win-loss slate, the twice-to-beat edge in the semifinals and the two will dispute the No. 1 position Sunday also at the Big Dome. The winner takes on La Salle and the loser faces UE.

Earlier, University of Santo Tomas gifted Aric del Rosario with a 92-89 overtime victory over University of the Philippines on his final game as the Tigers’ coach.

It was the Tigers’ fifth win in 14 outings to finish tied with the Adamson Falcons at fifth spot as del Rosario ended a colorful coaching career lasting for more than a decade and highlighted by a four peat.

"Malungkot siyempre dahil ma-mimiss mo yung pagko-coach at yung eskwelahan," said the teary-eyed del Rosario, who is the national team coach. Cebuana Lhuillier-backed RP Nationals set to compete in the ABC Championships in China next week.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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