Quiambao Kevin Quiambao of La Salle scores on a slam dunk during Game 2 of the UAAP men’s basketball Finals. UAAP photo

UAAP: UP or La Salle

December 6, 2023 Theodore P. Jurado 166 views

UNIVERSITY of the Philippines and La Salle leave everything on the floor as the two teams meet for one final time in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament tonight at the fabled Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The first two games were lopsided affairs, as the Fighting Maroons made history by posting by largest Finals winning margin in the Final Four, 97-67, in the opener before the Green Archers leveled the series with a 22-point rout, 82-60.

It was La Salle’s biggest championship series win since a 72-47 dismantling of Far Eastern University in Game 1 on October 1998.

The Finals decider is at 6 p.m., where the Big Dome is expected to be filled to the rafters.

Eight-peat seeking National University and University of Santo Tomas dispute the women’s crown at 12 noon.

UP is 1-1 in Game 3s, as the Diliman-based squad ended its 36-year title drought in the Season 84 bubble by dethroning Ateneo in overtime on a JD Cagulangan game-winning triple in May last year. The Fighting Maroons’ reign, however, was short lived as the Blue Eagles won Game 3 to reclaim the throne last December.

UP coach Goldwin Monteverde is setting aside the Game 2 loss, as he is looking forward for the second chance to win the whole thing.

“Well, it is what it is kung ano nangyari today (Sunday). We’re not gonna make any reasons kung ano turnout ng game today, rather we’re gonna look inside us, kung ano dapat namin ginawa. Ang importante dito may Game 3 pa so nandoon pa yung chance namin. Yun lang, learn from it lang,” said Monteverde.

“It will count how to face challenges not alone, but to face challenges working together, helping each other out,” he added.

The Fighting Maroons started strong, racing to a 12-2 lead, before the Green Archers used a strong second quarter to take control and never looked back.

This will be La Salle’s ninth Game 3 in the Final Four era – the most by any team in the league. The Green Archers are 3-5 all-time, as their most recent Finals decider appearance ended in a loss to the Blue Eagles, 86-88, in 2017.

Gunning for his first collegiate coaching title, La Salle mentor Topex Robinson is bracing for what UP will throw at them in the finale.

“We know that it’s gonna be hard. Winning a championship is gonna be hard. Playing against the top college team in the country right now is gonna be hard. But sa amin, at the moment we just keep on enjoying that game, the game that we love, the game that has been good to us, and not shy away from the responsibility of the result of the ball game,” said Robinson.

The Green Archers hope to cash in that they are the only unbeaten team in Araneta Coliseum this season, winning all their six games. Game 3 is scheduled on December 6 at Araneta Coliseum.

The Fighting Maroons hope to get aggressive on the glass. Newly-minted season MVP Kevin Quiambao and Mike Phillips combined for 26 of La Salle’s 58 rebounds, 12 more than UP.

Even graduating guard Evan Nelle also helped in rebounding to offset his poor four-point output by hauling down 12 boards.

“We ride on the saying that ‘no rebounds, no rings,'” said Robinson.

Camille Clarin, the Lady Bulldogs captain who dropped 18 points in the series-tying victory, is looking forward for the do-or-die match, where if the first two games were a gauge it will go down the wire.

“Playing in Game 3 is definitely unfamiliar territory for us but fighting for a championship is not,” said Clarin.

“We’re just excited for the opportunity that we live to fight another day. We’re not gonna let it slip away from us and we’re gonna do everything we can to make sure we get that championship and it starts tomorrow,” she added.

Coach Haydee Ong, meanwhile, will use their Final Four duel with the Fighting Maroons as a motivation for the Tigresses to annex their first title since 2006.

“I told the players in the locker room that we’ve been here already,” Ong said.

“It’s the same scenario as against UP. This Wednesday is a do-or-die game, so let’s see what will happen,” she added.