UP, La Salle hurdle foes ahead of crucial UAAP weekend
University of the Philippines bamboozled its way past Santo Tomas as expected, with an 86-61 defanging of the Growling Tigers priming up the Fighting Maroons for what could be their most important game in the elimination round of the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball tournament.
The Maroons were never really threatened on Wednesday at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay, leading from start to finish with coach Goldwin Monteverde able to clear his bench as they gird up for a battle with National U Sunday for the projected top spot in the Final Four.
La Salle worked up some sweat in turning back Far Eastern in a later game, 80-70, as the Green Archers take a seven-game winning streak going into their rematch with bitter rival Ateneo to stay in contention for a playoff for No. 2 spot and the second Final Four bonus.
The Archers, after rising to 10-3. would need to get back at the Blue Eagles on Saturday to forge a playoff for No. 2 with against either National U or UP, depending on the result of their clash on Sunday and if the Bulldogs win over the Adamson Soaring Falcons at press time.
“We’re still focused on what we can improve on for our next game,” Monteverde said after steering his charges to an 11-2 record. “We know how important that game will be for us. We just need to have consistency. That has been our problem this season.”
UP can get some kind of lift if Adamson scores an upset over National U for this will give the Maroons two chances to taking No. 1 seeding starting with their Sunday clash.
Clearing his bench
So in control was Monteverde that he was able to play his entire roster, with Chicco Briones leading the Maroons with 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting in just 13 minutes and 58 seconds of action.
“I appreciate [the trust of Coach Goldwin] so much. It was an opportunity to give my best and I had to take that and put my heart out on the court,” said Briones as he led the way in dealing the Tigers their 12th loss in 13 games.
Santo Tomas will have a chance on improving its woeful 1-13 campaign last season when it closes out against Far Eastern—the only team it has beaten—on Saturday.
And while the Maroons are looking at tabbing the first twice-to-beat bonus in the semifinals, defending champion Ateneo practically just got there after an 80-74 trimming of University of the East earlier.
The Eagles rose to 7-6 to earn at least a playoff for No. 4 and the chance to play the top-ranked team in the Final Four, and it was a win that did not necessarily put a smile on the face of coach Tab Baldwin.
“I thought we looked a little bit disinterested today. There was no excuse for that,” Baldwin said. “It’s disappointing turning the ball over as much as we did and not be more dominant in the rebounding when they’re missing Precious (Momowei, who was serving a one-game suspension) and we had a significant size advantage.”
Kai Ballungay’s triple gave the Eagles a 70-55 lead with 7:31 left, only for the Eagles to lapse into a maze of errors that had the Red Warriors making a game out of it eventually.
Ateneo needed Sean Quitevis and Mason Amos to restore a 75-68 lead heading into the final 50 seconds and make the Red Warriors miss the Final Four for the 14th successive season.
Depending on the National U-Adamson result at press time, Ateneo will battle bitter rival La Salle on Saturday and could wind up in a KO game for No. 4 if the Falcons upset the Bulldogs.
A win by the Bulldogs over the Falcons would give Ateneo fourth seeding and the task of beating the No. 1 team twice in the Final Four for a chance to repeat.