UP claims No. 2 seed, ousts La Salle in thriller
ANTIPOLO—University of the Philippines countered every La Salle run with big baskets as it escaped with a 71-68 Sunday to secure a twice-to-beat advantage in the UAAP Season 82 men’s basketball Final Four at Ynares Center here.
Looking to avoid a playoff for a spot in the Final Four, the Fighting Maroons survived a late run by the Green Archers, rallying from 62-66 down in the final 2:54 as they collected their ninth win in 13 games.
Bright Akhuetie finished with 17 points, including six inside the final four minutes, while Kobe Paras had 10 points, highlighted by a thunderous dunk off a baseline cut that gave the Maroons the lead, 70-68, with 54 seconds remaining.
Ricci Rivero also had a solid game with 12 points and five rebounds. Rivero made a triple and scored on a breakaway dunk in the final canto to help keep the Archers at bay.
The Archers couldn’t buy a basket inside the final 95 seconds with Encho Serrano and Aljun Melecio missing good looks, before Jun Manzo went 1-of-2 from the foul line with two seconds left.
“There were ups and downs, but what is important for us was to not disappoint the UP community,” said Perasol, whose team secured a twice-to-beat for the first time since the Final Four format was adopted in 1994.
“They came here in throngs and they’ve supported us all throughout.”
With La Salle’s loss, the Final Four cast is now complete after Far Eastern U also beat University of the East, 82-68, earlier to also claim their ticket to the next phase.
The format for the semifinals however remains to be determined as Ateneo will still play UP on Wednesday.
A win by the Blue Eagles will force a stepladder format with UP holding a twice-to-beat edge against the winner between FEU and UST.
But a UP victory will pave the way for an Ateneo-UST match and an FEU-UP duel with the Eagles and Maroons both armed with a twice-to-beat edge.
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