UAAP: Green Archers get revenge in Finals series versus Fighting Maroons by double digits, force winner-takes-all match

The DLSU Green Archers competed their hearts out to overcome the UP Fighting Maroons, 82-60, in Game Two of the UAAP Season 86 Men’s Basketball Finals earlier today, December 3, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. This victory sets up one more deciding match to crown this season’s champion.

In the passion-filled effort, floor general Evan Nelle loaded the stat sheet to earn the Player of the Game honors with four points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, and five steals. Meanwhile, veteran Francis Escandor was on target from long range, scoring a team-high 14 marks on out of five three-point shooting. Meanwhile, newly-crowned Season 86 Most Valuable Player (MVP) Kevin Quiambao tallied a near double-double of nine points and 13 boards.

For the Fighting Maroons, it was Malick Diouf who held the UP fort down with a double-double of 11 points and 11 caroms—supplemented by Rookie of the Year Francis Lopez’s nine points and 13 rebounds.

Heart of an archer

With their backs against the wall, the Green Archers were eager to push the series to a Game Three decider for a chance to take the UAAP Men’s Basketball Championship. Off the tip, La Salle showed might as Michael Phillips would sink in a floater, opening DLSU’s scoring to knot the game up, 2-all.

Unfortunately for the La Salle faithful, UP would unleash a 10-0 run until the 6:33 mark, where DLSU Head Coach Topex Robinson called a timeout after his team went down double digits, 12-2. After the whistle, Mark Nonoy would slash his way to the basket for an and-one, signaling the Green and White to rally, 12-5.

The Taft-based squad found their composure, fighting hard to trade baskets against the opposition. This led to a narrowed gap of three after a Quiambao putback slam and Cortez lay-in brought the score to 18-15, momentarily.

UP’s Janjan Felicilda would continue to put pressure on La Salle with a three-pointer in the next possession, followed by points from Diouf and CJ Cansino. Joshua David would prove to be a spark off the bench, draining consecutive three-balls, as DLSU would stay within striking distance to end the first period, 27-24.

The story of the second quarter would fall into the hands of the team from Taft with their pesky defense and UP’s empty hits from the charity stripe. This combination led to M. Phillips opening the period strong with a thunderous slam, 27-26. The La Salle crowd’s roars would play a vital role in complementing the team’s defense as UP was held scoreless for almost three minutes.

Capitalizing on the momentum gained, fifth-year player Escandor would give the Green and White their first lead of the game with a heart-stopping three-pointer, 31-28. The Green Archers would carry on their rally with another Escandor three and a Quiambao putback dunk to give DLSU their biggest lead thus far, 36-29.

As the Diliman-based squad continued to struggle from the free throw line, CJ Austria would make his mark by converting back-to-back and-one’s, 41-32. La Salle would establish their lead the Green Archer way as Escandor hit yet another three to give the team a double-digit edge, 44-34.

UP’s Cansino and Alarcon closed the first half with consecutive baskets, hoping to return to top form, as the Green Archers headed into the second half with a seven-point advantage, 44-38, after holding the Fighting Maroons to just two made field goals out of 14 attempts in the second period.

Dramatic finish

With the momentum on the side of the Green Archers heading into the second half, the Taft-based squad quickly imposed their authority and never looked back. Despite coming cold from the bench, JC Macalalag kicked off the third quarter with a triple to get the third frame going, 47-38. 

The Fighting Maroons saw hope in the form of Gerry Abadiano and Lopez with a midrange jumper and completing an and-one play to narrow DLSU’s lead down, 52-45. However, David knocked down back-to-back corner threes to seal the third period with an insurmountable 16-point advantage over UP. The ending sequence of the third silenced the UP crowd and left the spectators in green on their feet with spirits up in the clouds.

With one quarter remaining in the game and UP still without a main man to rely on, the Fighting Maroons yielded Mark Belmonte in hopes of bringing the fire back to the Diliman squad. However, the newly-hailed MVP Quiambao showcased his defensive capabilities with back-to-back blocked shots within the same play against Belmonte to ice the confidence he tried to heat late in the game. 

Macalalag made his presence felt after sinking two free throws and a jumper, topped with Nelle’s drive to the open rim, extending the Green and White’s lead to a comfortable 20-point cushion at 71-51 and forcing UP to call a timeout. Orders from the side of Diliman were taken well by Alarcon, who forced the ball into the basket in a highly-contested drive and a long-range two, 71-53.

The intensity of the game saw a heated commotion ignited inside the court caused by Nelle and Torres who were both called for a warning for taunting. Joaqui Manuel was also charged with a technical foul from the bench for entering the court during the intense exchange. In the end, the referees favored UP; Cagulangan chipped in one during the technical free throw, 71-56.

A bit later on, Diouf’s elbow to the face of Quiambao marked his exit to the game with five fouls—a hard hit on UP’s offense with 3:30 remaining in the game, as Diouf led his team with a 62.5 field goal percentage and two blocks. 

Everything fell into place for the Green and White toward the final stretch of the game with three minutes left as the Fighting Maroons consistently missed shots. Nonoy was also forced to step out of the court with five fouls, but he walked away with the hard-earned respect of the DLSU community for leaving the ball game with eight big points. 

The Green Archers did not settle with their lead and kept their foot on the gas: Austria hit consecutive threes, while Escandor followed up with one last shot from beyond the arc to cap off the game in dominant fashion with a 22-point lead, 82-60. 

Forcing a decider

La Salle proved their bench too deep for this game as they outscored UP with 47 points compared to the opponents’ 24. Offensive rebounds worked for the Taft-based team as well, putting in 16 second-chance points versus UP’s four. The Fighting Maroons’ defense was also lacking as DLSU scored 20 from uncontested field goals throughout the game.

It was a phenomenal outing for graduating floor general Nelle, DLSU Head Coach Robinson highlighted in his post-game press conference interview with a one-sentence statement: “What Evan brings to us is stability.”

This iteration of the DLSU Green Archers will be entering uncharted territory—a do-or-die affair for all the marbles this Wednesday, December 6, at 6 pm at the same venue. Even after earning the tournament’s highest individual accolade, Quiambao’ full faith to get the job done is on their strength as a  team, saying, “I’m very thankful of my team. I know they’ll just stay ready and that they’ll fulfill their jobs.”

The Scores:

DLSU 82 –  Escandor 14, David 12, Austria 11, Quiambao 9, M. Phillips 9, Nonoy 8, Macalalag 7, Cortez 6, Nelle 4, B. Phillips 2, Manuel 0, Abadam 0, Policarpio 0

UP 60 –  Cansino 11, Diouf 11, Alarcon 10, Lopez 9, Cagulangan 6, Felicilda 6, Torculas 4, Abadiano 3, Belmonte 0, Torres 0, Alter 0, Pablo 0, Gonzales 0, Briones 0

Quarter Scores: 27-24, 44-38, 65-49, 82-60

Koby del Rosario

By Koby del Rosario

Luis Agus

By Luis Agus

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