New opponent, same mission.
The DLSU Lady Archers came to the finals stage last season, but were crushed in their championship bid against the formidable FEU Lady Tamaraws. The Lady Archers aim yet again to win the crown this year, but against a different though similarly strong opponent, the NU Lady Bulldogs.
With the usual offensive heroics of Ara Abaca and Trisha Piatos to lead the squad, along with staggering surprise performances from Cass Santos and Camille Claro, the Lady Archers have formidable depth in their roster which helped them book a ticket to the finals.
DLSU and NU rightfully deserve to duke it out in the UAAP finals, as both teams finished with an identical 12-2 record in the eliminations. DLSU then overwhelmed a tough UST squad to enter the finals, while NU outlasted a resilient ADU team in a final four rubber match to join the championship duel.
The Lady Archers and the Lady Bulldogs split their meetings in the eliminations, with NU winning the first round encounter and DLSU surging to the win for the second round.
The two teams’ first round encounter saw the Lady Archers’ undefeated start to the season and a five game winning streak snapp via a 64-55 win by NU. The squad from Taft Avenue fell into a deep hole in the first half that ultimately doomed their chances as they faced a huge 21 point deficit coming into the penultimate quarter. The aggressiveness of NU on both ends was too much for the Lady Archer’s to handle. NU star Afrid Berndardino led the team with a monster double-double performance of 16 points and 19 rebounds, eclipsing DLSU’s own star Ara Abaca, who paled in comparison with 18 points and nine rebounds.
The second time the two teams faced each other was a different story altogether as the Lady Archers snapped their own three game losing skid at the expense of NU with a convincing 77-69 win. Coach Ty Bautista relied on the dominating performance of the frontcourt tandem of Abaca and Cass Santos who both imposed their will in the paint. Abaca finished with 28 points coupled with 16 rebounds while Santos added a season-high 23 points to go along with 12 rebounds. NU could not find their rhythm as the Lady Archers’ suffocating defense clamped in on the Lady Bulldogs.
The Lady Archers have not held the Championship trophy for more than a decade now. Their last taste of the championship was on 2002, during the culmination of their glorious four-peat era.
The two squads are set to battle in the first game of the best-of-three finals series at 11:30 am on Saturday, September 28, at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
With another finals appearance, the Lady Archers aim to finally clinch the trophy once again to end the 11 year drought.