A splash of Maroon, Green: Keenly awaited UP-La Salle clash unfolds

John Bryan Ulanday - The Philippine Star
A splash of Maroon, Green: Keenly awaited UP-La Salle clash unfolds
Malick Diouf (left) celebrates UP’s return to the finals. Inset shows Mark Nonoy of La Salle.
STAR / File

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 U and challenger Santo Tomas in the women’s basketball finals at 12 noon.

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, as the red-hot Taft-based dribblers smothered the Bulldogs, 97-73, for their ninth straight win.

The Fighting Maroons in the process advanced to their third straight finals appearance – all under coach Goldwin Monteverde – with the Green 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 for the Green Archers in the Final Four era – the most in the UAAP. But they’ve never met the Maroons since they transferred from the NCAA to the UAAP in 1986.

That’s also the year when UP won the UAAP before going 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.

“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,” he added.

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