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UP draws first blood; demolishes DLSU in UAAP Finals

by Bryan Gadingan

THE UP Fighting Maroons demonstrated why they are the top seeded team in the UAAP by defeating the DLSU Green Archers, 97-67 in Game 1 of the UAAP Men’s Basketball Finals at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

There’s no better way to start the finals than by surprising the hottest team in front of 17,100 people. With a Game 1 victory, the Fighting Maroons were able to snap the Green Archers’ nine-game winning streak while also securing breathing room.

The game, which many thought would be a close one, turned out to be the most lopsided finals game in 25 years. UP’s 30-point victory is the biggest margin of victory in a finals game since 1998, when La Salle defeated Far Eastern University by a score of 25, 72-47, in Season 61.

The first half was characterized by back-and-forth tussles between the two sides, exchanging baskets and gritty defense as they took the lead from the other. But before halftime, the Fighting Maroons settled and bucked down to a more stringent defense to lead the half, 53-41.

Just as the Green Archers were about to regain momentum in the third quarter, the Katipunan-based team surged away, with Francis Lopez and Harold Alarcon combining for 17 points in the quarter to help establish a 77-55 lead heading into the fourth.

Photo Courtesy: UAAP Media Group

The Maroons never looked back, with Aldous Torculas rousing the fans with a putback dunk early in the fourth to extend the advantage to 25 points, 81-65, before Terrence Fortea made a triple to tally the highest gap at 30 with 1:18 to go.

Despite their brilliant offensive flow, Fighting Maroons head coach Goldwin Monteverde believes their dogged defense was the key to their win last night.

“The team really executed the game plan and defense was really great,” Monteverde said. “We just have to sustain and know that the Finals will not be won with one game, but it’s a series. We have to know what to work on and be ready for the next game.” 

UP forced La Salle into 18 turnovers, which resulted with 24 easy points on the other end. The Fighting Maroons then restricted their opponent to a dismal 8.7 percent from beyond the arc, making only two of their 23 attempts.

Harold Alarcon’s hot shooting night led the Katipunan squad’s offensive effort, as he finished with 21 points on an effective 6/9 shooting from the field while hitting 8/9 from the freethrow line.

Photo Courtesy: UAAP Media Group

“Masasabi ko lang hindi pa ito ‘yung [oras na] pwedeng magsaya. Hindi pa tapos ‘yung laban, siguro after nito mag-focus na kami sa next game,” said Alarcon, the Fighting Maroons’ third-year guard.

Lopez also had a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds, while JD Cagulangan had 11 points and Gerry Abadiano had 10 points. Malick Diouf and Aldous Torculas each had 9-15 points and 9-11 rebounds.

Photo Courtesy: UAAP Media Group

The Taft-based team, on the other hand, had Michael Phillips as the lone bright spot in its defeat. Mike Phillips, a third-year player, led the Green Archers with 19 points and nine rebounds.

MVP Kevin Quiambao, who seems to be the missing factor, finished with 11 points, six rebounds, and three assists. Evan Nelle, sidelined for early foul trouble, added eight. Both players were clearly restrained by the Maroons’ defensive masterpiece.

Green Archers head coach Topex Robinson was disappointed with the outcome of the game, but he insists that they will accept the loss and will not make excuses.

“Obviously, UP just showed us why they’re the number one team in the UAAP right now. At this point, we really can’t look for other excuses but to bounce back,” Robinson added.

The UP Fighting Maroons will look to bring home the championship on Sunday at 4:00 PM at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. La Salle Green Archers, on the other side, will want to extend the series and force a decider.

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