La Salle, NU eye F4 berths
La Salle and National University have a shot at completing the Final Four cast, but both teams must hurdle two gritty opponents in a crucial double-header in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament today at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Green Archers, aiming to forge a three-way tie on top, battle a surging University of the East side bent on staying in the semifinal race in the first game at 2 p.m.
“We know the tough task ahead of us,” said UE coach Derrick Pumaren. “[The Archers] are a bigger team and that’s a concern for us. We must be able to offset that. We cannot let La Salle establish their inside game.”
The Warriors are trying to chase the fourth-running Bulldogs, who will clash with eliminated University of Santo Tomas at 4 p.m.
Victories by the Archers and the Bulldogs will propel them to the Final Four along with idle Ateneo and Far Eastern University, both sharing the lead at 10-3.
But if the Warriors—fresh from forging a 94-71 stunner over the Tamaraws—pull off another upset over the defending champion Archers, the last two semifinal slots will remain up for grabs.
“We just have to make the most of those opportunities given to us,” coach Juno Sauler said of his Archers, who secured at least a playoff for a Final Four slot with a 9-4 record.
The Archers know how tough the Warriors can be after barely escaping them, 60-58, in the first round.
“It’s always tough playing against UE,” said Sauler. “They’re long, they’re quick. We know they’ll put pressure on us for 40 minutes.”
The Bulldogs, who can secure at least a semifinal playoff with a ninth win, also worry about the Tigers, who vowed to come out strong in their last two games.
“They will play with nothing to lose, but we need that win,” said NU coach Eric Altamirano. “It’s important that we play our game.”
If UE wins and NU loses, both teams will end up tied for fourth place and turn the last two elimination playdates a down-to-the-wire Final Four race.