La Salle fights back to force UAAP title decider vs UP

By Jun Ray Navarres

The De La Salle University retaliated by giving University of the Philippines a taste of their own medicine after suffering a lopsided opener in the UAAP Finals, 82-60 to force a rubber match for the Season 86 Men’s Basketball crown.

Similar to Game One, both universities fought a tight opening stanza, 24-27 but this time the Green Archers went on to limit UP in just 11 points each for three straight quarters, shocking SMART Araneta Coliseum, Sunday afternoon.

“I guess we really don’t wanna end this Finals right away. We just gave UP a good fight. Players really wanted it and they just tried to be prepared for the way it’s gonna be. These guys played with their hearts out,” said La Salle rookie-head coach Topex Robinson.

UP did not waste any time, immediately establishing a 12-2 lead early after the tip-off.

But the Green Archers rallied behind Francis Escandor three straight treys in the second frame to outscore the Fighting Maroons, 20-11, for a 44-38 halftime lead.

Joshua David followed the Davao-native’s initiation, sinking two threes from the same spot to build a 65-49 advantage going into the final stanza.

From then on, La Salle just showed the grit and determination needed to increase the gap to as much as 22 and deny UP of any comeback.

Escandor finished with 14 points while David added 12 baskets all from beyond the arc.

Following his struggling Game One, Kevin Quiambao continued to have troubles from the field, shooting only 3 for 17 for a total of nine points. However, this time the newly crowned Season 86 MVP went out to grab 13 rebounds and deflect three shots for a plus-23 efficiency.

“Game 1 ineffective ako. Nag step aside ‘yong ego ko and naging off ball player ako. Sobra akong na-overwhelmed and excited dahil marami pang work and learnings sa game na ito,” said Quiambao.

Mike Phillips supported KQ in the paint adding nine buckets, 13 boards, and two blocks.

Veteran guard Evan Nelle, who also struggled shooting the ball, going for four points in 2-out-of-12 from the field, provided 12 rebounds, 10 assists, and five steals.

Season 85 MVP Malick Diouf finished with only 11 points despite scoring 10 baskets in the first quarter. Captain CJ Cansino added another 11 while Harold Alarcon contributed 10 points in a losing effort.

The winner-takes-all Game 3 will take place on Wednesday, 6PM still at the Araneta Coliseum.

Featured photo courtesy of UAAP

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