UP and La Salle face tough competition prior to crucial weekend showdown
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.
“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.