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UAAP: It’s UP-DLSU in the Finals!

by Bryan Gadingan

THE UAAP Finals stage is set between the UP Fighting Maroons and the returning DLSU Green Archers, who will meet each other for the first time in UAAP men’s basketball finals history.

The Fighting Maroons advanced to their fourth consecutive Finals appearance after defeating the defending champions, the Ateneo Blue Eagles, in a stunning 57-46 comeback victory on Saturday at the Araneta Coliseum.

Meanwhile, the returning UAAP finalist La Salle Green Archers took care of business against the National U Bulldogs, winning 97-73 in Saturday’s Final Four to send the Bulldogs home.

The Fighting Maroons and Green Archers will meet in a championship series for the first time since the Green Archers joined the UAAP basketball competition in 1986. La Salle is also making their first Finals appearance since 2017.

They advanced to the UAAP Season 80 Finals, where they were defeated in three games by the Ateneo Blue Eagles. The Green Archers were led by two-time MVP Ben Mbala and coached by Aldin Ayo at the time.

Fighting Maroons are back in the finals!

The Fighting Maroons have reached the finals four times in the last five seasons. They won the men’s basketball championship in Season 84, but lost it to the Blue Eagles less than a year later in Season 85.

This season, UP ensured that the ‘Battle of Katipunan’ would conclude in their favor by ending Ateneo’s rule in a grueling defensive encounter in which both teams struggled offensively.

Malick Diouf, the reigning MVP, led UP with 12 points, 16 rebounds, three steals, and three blocks, while Francis Lopez and Janjan Felicilda added 12 and 10, respectively.

“For me, it’s a team effort. Everybody was working hard and we prepared well for Ateneo. I’m really happy right now for the win and going to the Finals,” said reigning MVP Malick Diouf, who led his team to victory.

UP assistant coach Christian Luanzon, on the other hand, emphasized how tough the game was for both teams. “Both teams we just fought. The score says it all. Both teams just came prepared especially on the defensive end,” he said.

“Both teams also struggled offensively, we got it going nung third quarter but more than that, they just fought hard, and hindi sila bumitaw hanggang dulo,” UP assistant coach Christian Luanzon added.

Green Archers’ drought is over!

The hottest team in the UAAP, the DLSU Green Archers, extends their winning streak to nine games and demonstrates why they should be feared going into their finals meeting versus the UP Fighting Maroons given their depth.

The Green Archers were able to secure their comeback to the finals after Season 80 in 2017, when they lost to their archrival Ateneo Blue Eagles in three games in front of a crowded Smart Araneta Colisuem with 11,200 fans in attendance.

Topex Robinson, a first-year DLSU head coach, hopes to follow in the footsteps of previous first-year Green Archers head coaches Franz Pumaren, Juno Sauler, and Aldin Ayo.

“We came into this game knowing NU will throw everything at us. Coach Jeff and the rest of the coaching staff really did a tremendous job for them to be here and we just tried to remind everybody that we are gonna go to the Finals because we are gonna go get it, not to be given to us,” stated head coach Topex Robinson.

Kevin Quiambao, the UAAP MVP favorite, led his side with 17 points and eight rebounds. Mark Nonoy, on the other hand, led the scoring with 20 points while shooting four three-pointers. Evan Nelle finished with 15 points, eight assists, five rebounds, and two steals. 

“Masaya and blessed na meron kaming opportunity na makapaglaro sa Finals, pero pinapaalala sa amin ni Coach Topex na kailangan naming magfocus na sa UP and magpahinga para ready kami,” said Quiambao, who guided his side to win.

Meanwhile, Mike Phillips was in his typical energizer position, contributing 10 rebounds, six of which were offensive, as well as 11 points, four assists, and three steals.

During the eliminations, the Green Archers and the Fighting Maroons faced off against one other on a 1-1 split. Which makes it difficult to forecast who will win it all this season, just like it was in the Final Four.

The first game of the best-of-three Finals will take place on Wednesday, Nov. 29, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, with Game Two taking place on Dec. 3 at the Big Dome. If the series goes to Game Three, it will also be played at the Big Dome on December 6.



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