UP stuns La Salle, returns to UAAP Final Four after 21 years
University of the Philippines ended a 21-year drought in the Final Four after stunning De La Salle, 97-81, to clinch a spot in the next round of the UAAP Season 81 men’s basketball tournament Wednesday at Mall of Asia Arena.
This will be the first Final Four appearance for UP since 1997 during the time of Paolo Mendoza, a year after it last notched the third seed in 1996.
The Fighting Maroons ended the eliminations with an 8-6 record to grab the no.3 spot due to their superior quotient over the Green Archers, who dropped to 8-6, and Far Eastern University, which is at no. 5 with a 7-6 card.
If the Tamaraws beat Adamson University, it will force a playoff for the fourth seed against the Green Archers.
After trailing 16-11 late in the first, the Fighting Maroons went on a blistering 33-5 run across the first two quarters to take a 34-21 leadon Jun Manzo’s jumper with 6:24 left in the second period and never looked back.
“I painted to them the picture of us not having any accolades in the past decades so for us to get this chance, the opportunity, it just happened,” said UP head coach Bo Perasol.
“The players were able to grasp the idea that this was their chance for history.”
Juan Gomez De Liaño finished with 27 points to lead the Fighting Maroons’ offense while older brother Javi added 19 points.
Bright Akhuetie was a hulking presence in UP’s paint with 16 points and 20 rebounds.
Justine Baltazar led the Green Archers with 22 points and seven boards while Aljun Melecio added 19 points and six assists.
Post-game with the UP Fighting Maroons after their 97-81 win over La Salle. #UAAPSeason81
Posted by Inquirer Sports on Wednesday, November 14, 2018
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