The defending UAAP champions, the UP Fighting Maroons, pulled out a solid rally to finish their first Final Four game with a win over the NU Bulldogs, 69-61. With the victory, the Maroons move straight into the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball Finals on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
UP’s guards led the charge down the stretch, as Terrence Fortea, Gerry Abadiano, and JD Cagulangan all contributed to the team’s late run that turned a 61-58 deficit into a 66-61 lead with just 53.3 seconds left on the clock.
“We’re happy that we’ll be getting another chance to win the championship,” Fighting Maroons head coach Goldwin Monteverde expressed.
“For the game, we started out flat. Losing Carl in the first half, he wasn’t 100 percent, the team responded well to the challenge given to us,” added the decorated bench tactician, as Tamayo hurt his ankle midway through the first period. However, Monteverde shared that he will be ready for the Finals.
MVP frontrunner Malick Diouf was UP’s top performer for the day, recording 17 points, 21 rebounds, and three blocks. Meanwhile, Zavier Lucero also added 12 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, three blocks, and two steals.
For the Bulldogs, on the other hand, Jake Figueroa made 16 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, while Kean Baclaan produced 10 of his 14 points in the fourth frame.
UP’s win effectively ends the NU’s hopes for the crown, with Senior Bulldogs Jonas Tibayan and Germy Mahinay playing their last game for NU.
The Fighting Maroons will wait for the winner of the Ateneo de Manila University-Adamson University series.
UP 69 — Diouf 17, Lucero 12, Gonzales 11, Cagulangan 8, Abadiano 7, Fortea 6, Tamayo 6, Alarcon 2, Spencer 0, Galinato 0, Torculas 0.
NU 61 — Figueroa 16, Baclaan 14, Malonzo 11, John 8, Yu 2, Clemente 2, Enriquez 2, Mahinay 2, Minerva 2, Galinato 2, Manansala 0, Palacielo 0, Tibayan 0.
Quarters: 17-19, 35-38, 54-45, 69-61.
Images courtesy of UAAP.