Maroons, Archers meet in UAAP last dance for first time

John Bryan Ulanday - Philstar.com
Maroons, Archers meet in UAAP last dance for first time
La Salle's Kevin Quiambao (left) and Francis Lopez of UP
UAAP Media Bureau

Games Wednesday
(Mall of Asia Arena)

12 p.m. – NU vs UST (women’s finals)
6 p.m. – UP vs La Salle (men’s finals)

MANILA, Philippines – Worlds collide as University of the Philippines and La Salle lock horns in their first ever title showdown for the UAAP men’s basketball supremacy. 

The Fighting Maroons and the Green Archers, who lived up to lofty billings as the top-seeds, march into the battlefield with hopes of dealing the pivotal first blow as the UAAP Season 86 best-of-three finale unfurls at the Mall of Asia Arena. 

Game time is at 6 p.m. after the opening salvo of seven-peat champion National University and challenger University of Santo Tomas in the women’s basketball finals at 12 p.m.

UP and La Salle, which finished 1-2 in the two-round eliminations for twice-to-beat incentives in the Final Four, forged a historic battle after making short work of dethroned titlist Ateneo and NU, respectively. 

The hoopers from Diliman snapped the Eagles’ six straight finals appearance, 57-46, while the red-hot Taft-based dribblers smothered the Bulldogs, 97-73, for their ninth straight win. 

In the process, the Maroons advanced to their third straight finals appearance — all under coach Goldwin Monteverde — with the Archers gifting new coach Topex Robinson a finals stint in his debut season while ending a six-year drought. 

Overall, it’s the 17th straight finals appearance of the Archers in the Final Four era — the most in UAAP — but they’ve never met the Maroons since they transferred from the NCAA to the UAAP in 1986. 

Until now. 

That’s also the year when UP won the UAAP title before embarking on a 36-year drought that it finally snapped in Season 84 — turning this finale to a date for the ages. 

Both teams vow to embrace the challenge, as well as the pressure that comes with it. 

“It’s something that’s really special — my first time here coaching DLSU in the finals and playing against UP. I know it’s gonna be an exciting ball game,” said Robinson, who had stints in the NCAA and PBA before finding himself as the chief tactician in Taft. 

“Whether I like it or not, there’s gonna be pressure. It could either stop you or really motivate you. I’m gonna choose the latter,” added Robinson, whose wards just had an added fire lit within them after gracing the ring ceremony of previous La Salle champion teams. 

UP echoes the same mentality with hopes of coming away with its second crown in the last three seasons after this rare encounter with La Salle that also features well-balanced protagonists led by reigning MVP Malick Diouf and runaway MVP race leader Kevin Quiambao. 

“Yung journey namin to this point, nakikita na namin ang finish line. It’s just a matter of really firming up our grip in the race,” said UP assistant coach Christian Luanzon. 

“It’s all about taking advantage of what we built all throughout the year and finishing it up hopefully the way we wanted to and the way we envisioned it.”

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