UAAP: UP tops La Salle to take first Final Four spot since 1997
Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Nov 14, 2018 07:12 PM
UP will be playing in the Final Four for the first time since the late 90s
For a long time, the University of the Philippines has said that there is nowhere to go but up.
Now in the UAAP 81 Men’s Basketball Tournament, at long last, they are up there with the best of them.
Turning in one of their most complete performances in recent history, the Fighting Maroons bested De La Salle University, 97-81, on Wednesday at the MOA Arena and bagged the third-seed in the tournament.
This will be the first time since 1997 that they will be playing in the Final Four.
The determination to finally end that 21-year playoff drought was very much evident from start to finish as, even though Aljun Melecio granted the Green Archers a 22-17 lead late in the first quarter, State U had the answer.
Behind Gomez de Liano brothers Juan and Javi, they went on a 19-8 tear that took away the advantage in their favor, 41-25, in the middle of the second period.
Of course, La Salle didn’t quit just yet, but was only able to come as close as 16 points until the final buzzer.
In the end, Juan GDL had 27 points, four assists, and three rebounds while kuya Javi had his own 19 markers built on five triples.
MVP frontrunner Bright Akhuetie posted another double-double of 16 points and 20 rebounds while team captain Paul Desiderio chipped in 10 markers, four rebounds, four assists, and two steals.
Proving they now have the poise to pull out wins, the Fighting Maroons improved their record to 8-6 – the school’s best since 1997.
Coincidentally, that was also the last year they played in the playoffs.
At 8-6, UP is tied with La Salle in the standings and Far Eastern University still has a chance to join them.
By virtue of their highest quotient among the three teams, however, the Fighting Maroons have secured the third-seed. Meanwhile, to advance into the next round, the Green Archers will have to face off with the Tamaraws if and when the latter does win up against on Sunday.
Justine Baltazar topped the scoring column for them with 22 points to go along with seven rebounds while Aljun Melecio contributed 19 markers, six assists, and three boards.
UP 97 – Ju. Gomez de Liaño 27, Ja. Gomez de Liaño 19, Akhuetie 16, Desiderio 10, Manzo 6, Jaboneta 5, Dario 5, Tungcab 3, Gozum 2, Lim 2, Prado 2, Murrell 0, Vito 0.
LA SALLE 81 – Baltazar 22, Melecio 19, Caracut 12, Samuel 8, Santillan 6, Montalbo 5, Serrano 5, Bates 2, Manuel 2, Dyke 0.
QUARTER SCORES: 25-17, 52-29, 75-54, 97-81
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