Archers far from finished

John Bryan Ulanday - The Philippine Star
Archers far from finished
Season 86 MVP Kevin Quiambao of La Salle catches his defenders from UP flat-footed with this one-handed dunk.
Jun Mendoza

MANILA, Philippines — Vengeful La Salle shoved it back – hard and loud – on the University of the Philippines with an emphatic 82-60 win in Game 2 to force a winner-take-all duel in the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball finals in front of 20, 863 fans yesterday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum

The Green Archers, who absorbed the most lopsided loss in the UAAP Final Four era in the opener, 97-67, stared at a similar scenario with an early 2-12 deficit before flipping the switch in the blink of an eye to wipe the dust off the Fighting Maroons and tie the short best-of-three series at 1-1.

La Salle put the clamps on UP from there on, including a herculean effort of limiting UP to only two field goals in the second quarter, which ignited its breakaway until meeting little to no resistance heading home.

The Green Archers and the Fighting Maroons waltz it one last time for all the marbles in Game 3 this Wednesday at the same venue, where seven-peat champion National U and Santo Tomas will also duke it out in a winner-take-all setto for the women’s crown.

The Lady Bulldogs avenged their historic 76-72 loss in Game 1 with a 72-70 Game 2 win over the Growling Tigresses to stay alive and on track of extending their UAAP women’s hoop dynasty.

“Buhay pa kami. Buhay pa kami. Today’s mindset was just to stay alive, stay in the present. We don’t even think of Game 1, we don’t even think of Game 3. Our main focus is Game 2 only,” said NU mentor Aris Dimaunahan, whose crew was led by Camille Clarin (18), Karl Pingol (14) and Princess Fabruada (13).

The Green Archers did, too.

Francis Escandor (14), Joshua David (12) and CJ Austria (11) provided the spark as Mike Phillips (nine points, 13 rebounds) and Evan Nelle (four points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists) were steady for La Salle, which made newly-minted MVP Kevin Quiambao a surprise anchor of its shock-trooping unit off the bench in a bold decision of Topex Robinson.

“We don’t want to end this finals right away. We just gave UP a good fight. The players really wanted it this time. These guys really played with their hearts out. They did their job and I’m happy for them,” said Robinson.

Quiambao, who had nine points, 13 rebounds and three blocks, did not start and Robinson’s gamble nearly backfired for La Salle in staring at a quick 2-12 deficit.

By the end of the first, La Salle was magically within 24-27 on a 22-15 rally with Quiambao manning the second unit.

“Kevin was ready for the challenge and he responded well and gave an extra boost after our starters. KQ is a really well-rounded player willing to take care of the responsibility, even coming off the bench,” said Robinson on the telling move that kept La Salle’s season alive.

If the move baffled UP that was on the verge of breaking away, La Salle put on a defensive clinic and shattered the game by itself in the second period by limiting the latter to a dismal 2-of-13 shooting to take a 44-36 lead at the half.

The Fighting Maroons did not score a field goal until the last 14 seconds of the half, with all their points coming from the stripes.

It was all La Salle in the second half as UP never regained its bearings and finished with a sloppy 29-percent clip for a full reversal of roles after exploding for 97 big points in Game 1.

CJ Cansino (11), Malick Diouf (11) and Harold Alarcon (10) showed the way for the Fighting Maroons, who fell short of completing a sweep and capturing their second crown in the last three seasons.

Earlier, Kent Pastrana (15), Tantoy Ferrer (15), Rocel Dionisio (15) and Tacky Tacatac (12) led Santo Tomas in a tough Game 2 loss that could have ended its 17-year title drought.

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