Green archers nail crown  

John Bryan Ulanday - The Philippine Star
Green archers nail crown  
The La Salle Archers whoop it up at the end of a winning journey, beating the UP Maroons, 73-69, in a well-fought title decider at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last night.
Jun Mendoza

MANILA, Philippines —  La Salle recently witnessed the ring ceremony of the school’s past champion squads, clinging to hopes and dreams that it could follow suit in a week’s time in a bid to snap a seven-year UAAP championship drought.

On Wednesday night in front of a record-smashing crowd, the Green Archers soaked under their own, coveted moment in toppling the formidable UP Fighting Maroons, 73-69, in Game 3 of the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball finals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Kevin Quiambao lived up to his lofty MVP billing by anchoring the Green Archers’ defensive masterclass in the clutch to score the gritty final win and complete a reverse series sweep for their first title since 2016 with 25,192 fans as witnesses.

La Salle limited UP to only four points in the last eight minutes with Quiambao and Evan Nelle taking matters into their own hands to give coach Topex Robinson his first collegiate title in the process – right in his first year at Taft.

“Losing Game 1 by 30 was really a challenge for us. I just told them we need each other. We’ve gone this far and we will not give up. I’m grateful that they responded to the challenge,” said Robinson, finally a collegiate champion coach after heartbreaks with San Sebastian and Lyceum in the NCAA.

Quiambao fired 24 points, nine rebounds, four assists and two blocks, including La Salle’s last seven points highlighted by the game-sealing freebies in the last 2.1 seconds.

Nelle backstopped him with 12 points, six rebounds, seven assists and two steals with Jonnel Policarpio and Mark Nonoy adding eight points each. Mike Phillips also held his own against former MVP Malick Diouf with five points, 16 rebounds, two assists and two blocks.

It was the 10th UAAP title for the Archers, and it looked a long shot after an embarrassing 30-point defeat in the finals opener.

La Salle folded to UP, 97-67, for the most lopsided Game 1 defeat in the Final Four era before returning the favor in Game 2 by handing the latter its biggest loss this season and under the watch of Goldwin Monteverde, 82-60, to set the stage for a sudden death.

There, Quiambao was not to be denied in completing a twin kill after also earning the Finals MVP plum with solid averages of 14.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.7 blocks despite coming off the bench in Game 2.

He pulled one last ace up his sleeve in the fourth quarter, anchoring La Salle’s 15-4 closeout to flip a 58-65 deficit.

“Sabi nga ni coach Topex, wala nang bukas. Dapat isipin namin ‘yung bawat possession ay gold lahat. As one of the reliables, kinailangan ko magstep-up in any way I can. Bawat possession, ginto para sa amin,” said Quiambao.

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