UAAP: Lady Archers forgo UAAP crown to Lady Bulldogs who complete dominant seven-peat

After losing two games in a row against the now seven-time defending champions, the NU Lady Bulldogs, 76-64, the DLSU Lady Archers settled for silver in the UAAP Season 85 Women’s Basketball tournament earlier today, December 11, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena. 

Despite the loss, Charmine Torres led the valiant effort, topping all scorers with 29 points while anchoring DLSU’s defense with five steals. Center Fina Niantcho dominated the paint as she pulled down 22 boards, while Joehanna Arciga and Lee Sario chipped in eight and seven points, respectively.

A balanced scoring attack from NU saw seven players score at least five points each. Leading them was Tin Cayabyab, who put up 18 points, two steals, and one block. Supplementing her was Angel Surada, who provided 10 points on 4/6 shooting while also grabbing nine rebounds.

Lack of options

Converting defensive stops into easy plays on offense, the Lady Bulldogs exhibited their prowess in transition against the Lady Archers early in the opening frame. Lady Bulldogs Annick Tiky and Karl Pinol took charge in the early minutes of the game to give NU the upper hand, 8-5. With no signs of dismay, Lady Archer Torres made her presence felt, scoring all  nine of DLSU’s early points with free throws, a triple, a drive to the basket, and a long jumper, 12-9. Lady Bulldogs Cayabyab and Surada converted back-to-back baskets for NU to extend their lead, 16-9, and force the Green and White to call a timeout. Continuing their pressure-packed defense, the team from Sampaloc scored more easy baskets with a floater and a layup courtesy of Surada, 22-11. With the Taft-based squad left without an answer to the offense of the Lady Bulldogs, Cayabyab landed her first three-pointer—which was followed quickly by an easy two from Cacho—to cement their dominance after just the first quarter, 27-11.

With La Salle’s heavy dependence on Torres to shoulder the offensive workload, the Lady Bulldog’s defense on the Lady Archers’ lead guard became tighter, limiting the veteran’s production in the second quarter. In a fortunate opportunity for NU, Rhocel Bartolo was fouled by DLSU’s Luisa de la Paz on an attempt from beyond the arc and made all three freebies, 30-11, at the 9:14 mark. Lady Archer Joehanna Arciga tried to rise to the occasion, charging in with a tough two before splitting one of her two free throws, 32-16. The already energized Cayabyab found an open three and a mid-range jumper later on to stretch their lead to 17, 39-22. Continuing her hot shooting, the dominant forward pulled up to drain another three, 42-24. The heavily-defended Lady Archer Torres answered with her own triple to cap off the second quarter, but NU remained in the driver’s seat, 42-27. 

Close, but no cigar

The Lady Archers’ offensive woes continued to open the second half, as the first three minutes saw them failing to score a basket. After the long scoring drought, Torres finished a tough layup over NU’s frontcourt to finally put DLSU in the scoring column in the third quarter. However, the Lady Bulldogs’ tough and physical defense prevented any more opposing field goals for the next few possessions. After her side continued to struggle, Bettina Binaohan provided a much needed bucket for La Salle—converting an and1 play—but the Lady Bulldogs quickly countered with a pair of treys from Camille Clarin and Rianne Villareal. Despite Torres’s best efforts on offense to cut into their opponent’s lead, the free throw shooting of the Lady Bulldogs proved to be too much for La Salle to overcome. NU capped off another dominant quarter with two consecutive transition layups courtesy of Cayabyab and Aloha Bettanio, giving them a large 61-40 lead heading into the final frame.

Undeterred, the Lady Archers opened the fourth quarter with guns blazing, going on a quick 11-4 run to force NU to call a timeout. During this DLSU run, Torres reignited her long-range hot shooting, hitting her third three-pointer of the contest, while Niantcho finally came alive to score her first bucket in the second half. With DLSU slowly clawing their way back into the game, Clarin and Pingol hit two deep daggers in a row, extinguishing any hope that La Salle had left for a late comeback. Despite a last minute hurrah from the Lady Archers, it wasn’t enough as NU retained their title with a 76-64 victory.

Lady Bulldog Cayabyab was awarded as Finals’ Most Valuable Player, averaging a team-high 12.5 points in the two-game sweep.

The Lady Archers concluded their outstanding season that saw them snap NU’s historic winning streak and reach the Final Four with a silver-medal finish, testifying their incredible work ethic as they improved from their previous 7-7 run in Season 82 where they finished as the fifth seed in the tournament.

The Scores:

DLSU 64 – Torres 29, Niantcho 11, Arciga 8, Sario 7, Binaohan 5, de la Paz 2, Jimenez 0, Ahmed 0

NU 76 – Cayabyab 18, Surada 10, Tiky 9, Clarin 8, Cacho 6, Pingol 6, Bartolo 5, Canuto 4, Fabruada 4, Villareal 4, Bettanio 2, Barroquillo 0, Dimaunahan 0, Solis 0, Ico 0

Quarter Scores: 27-11, 42-27, 61-40, 76-64

By Luis Agus

By Julio Amir Tampis

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