UAAP Finals between UP, La Salle headed into a fitting finale
LIVE UPDATES: UAAP Finals Game 3 UP vs La Salle
No pregame hype in the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball tournament title series has so far come true. Prior to Game 1, no one expected La Salle to lose, with the Green Archers coming off a nine-game winning streak capped by a 20-point bamboozling of a truly formidable Final Four foe.
They were certainly the favorites coming into the title playoffs.
That was until University of the Philippines (UP) destroyed that myth of invincibility to post a 97-67 series-opening rout, making the Fighting Maroons instant favorites to sweep after dealing the Archers a gut punch that was felt all over the league.
But now, the Maroons and the Archers play a Game 3, something which La Salle necessitated after dealing UP a bloodbath of its own on what was supposed to be the coronation night for the Katipunan-based squad last Sunday.
Does La Salle have momentum after an 82-60 win, or did that victory just awaken the Maroons for Game 3 slated on Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum?
“These kinds of games would teach us what kind of effort to put forth to be able to get the championship. And if need be, to learn this way then [we accept the outcome],” UP coach Goldwin Monteverde said.
“It is what it is, what happened [in Game 2]. We’re not gonna make any reasons for the turnout of the game, but rather, we’re gonna look inside us—what we should’ve done. What’s important is there is still a Game 3, our chances are still there,” Monteverde added.
A game like this will all boil down ultimately to which team would be grinding it out more, to which players will fight for possessions more and to which side gets to play through pressure so numbing that a sea of humanity inside the Big Dome could give.
If at all, the Game 2 win showed just how La Salle could adjust, especially after coach Topex Robinson relegated freshly minted Most Valuable Player Kevin Quiambao to an off-the-bench role.
And Robinson also pulled rabbits out of his hat in the second game, with Francis Escandor drilling the Maroons with crucial triples (14 pts, 80 percent from beyond the arc) and CJ Austria and Joshua David accounting for 23 points between them.
That trio of elimination round role players went on to shoot 10-for-16 from beyond the three-point arc that eventually greased the La Salle breakaway.
“I am just really happy that we got the win coming from a big loss. We really wanted to bounce back,” Escandor, who came into the championship series averaging just five points, said. “No matter what, our mindset was we won’t lose this game. We showed that we really wanted to win.”
Very recent history is also not kind to the Maroons, who lost in their defense of the title last season after Ateneo won Games 2 and 3.
But like in the first two games when all the pundits were made to eat their predictions, UP and La Salle battling it in Game 3 will be a classic whichever way—or however way—it ends as the tournament will crown a truly deserving champion.
Meanwhile, in the women’s Finals, National University (NU) will try to clinch an eighth consecutive championship after coming back from a surprise Game 1 loss to University of Santo Tomas.
The Growling Tigresses won Game 1, 76-72 and dealt NU its first Finals loss in 10 years. But the Lady Bulldogs showed resiliency and championship experience with a narrow 72-70 Game 2 win also on Sunday.