Maroons on brink of glory

John Bryan Ulanday - The Philippine Star
Maroons on brink of glory
UP’s Francis Lopez towers against La Salle’s Jonnel Policarpio in this play early in Game 1 of the UAAP Finals at the MOA Arena last night.
Jun Mendoza

MANILA, Philippines — University of the Philippines doused cold water on the previously red-hot La Salle, stamping a 97-67 statement win in Game 1 of the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball finals yesterday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

After a close duel in the early goings of their first-ever UAAP title showdown, the Fighting Maroons waxed hot bridging the second and third quarters and cruised to 1-0 lead in the short best-of-three face-off.

UP stopped La Salle’s nine-game romp including a sweep of the second round, and the Maroons now sport a chance to win their second title in the last three seasons in Game 2 this Sunday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

Harold Alarcon rifled in 21 points on 6-of-9 field shooting and 8-of-9 clip from the charity stripe as the vengeful UP, runner-up to Ateneo last season, handed La Salle a 30-point beating in the most lopsided Game 1 win in the UAAP Final Four era.

Francis Lopez hauled down a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds while JD Cagulangan (11) and Gerry Abadiano (10) chipped in key contributions. Former MVP Malick Diouf and Aldous Torculas added nine each.

“The team really executed the game plan. We just have to sustain it. The finals will not be won in one game. It’s a series so we have to be ready,” said coach Goldwin Monteverde, whose wards won their third straight Game 1 win in as many finals appearances under his watch.

Meanwhile, Santo Tomas stunned seven-time reigning champion National U, 76-72, to zero in on the UAAP women’s basketball crown.

Five players hit twin digits led by Kent Pastrana with 15 points as the Growling Tigresses snapped a 20-game, 11-year losing skid against the Lady Bulldogs who have an eighth straight title in mind.

The girls from España last won against the Lady Bulldogs way back on Aug. 31, 2012.

, by virtue of a 74-73 victory.

Santo Tomas also handed NU its first finals defeat since 2013 when it bowed to La Salle, 69-61, in Game 3 of the UAAP Season 76 finale before sweeping all its seven championships since then.

Standing at the forefront of Growling Tigresses’ historic win was Pastrana, who aside from anchoring their onslaught added six rebounds and four steals.

Veteran Tacky Tacatac was also instrumental, firing 11 of her 14 points in the payoff period as Nikki Villasin chipped in 10 points.

Tantoy Ferrer collared 13 points and 14 rebounds while Brigette Santos was everywhere with 12 points, four rebounds and seven steals for the wards of coach Haydee Ong, whose team bowed to NU in the Season 82 finals.

“We’re so happy of course that finally, mayroon kaming panalo against NU which is most important because this is the championship series. The girls really worked hard for this until the last second na pwedeng humabol yung NU. They kept their composure,” said Ong.

Santo Tomas did.

Holding a precarious 62-60 lead midway through the third period, the Growling Tigresses, in spurts, pounced on the Lady Bulldogs to open a 73-65 lead in the last three minutes.

NU, the UAAP dynasty that it is, refused to go down without a fight, striking to within 71-73 in the final minute off Stefanie Berberabe’s free throws.

Pastrana then came to UST’s rescue anew, dishing out a huge assist to Rocel Dionisio for the dagger in the last 50 seconds, 75-71. NU’s Angel Surada and Santo Tomas’ Santos split their freebies for the final count.

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