Ateneo-La Salle Finals in the offing?
THE question now after that unexpected wayward Wednesday is: Will the UP Fighting Maroons raze the stigma of that Game One loss to the De La Salle Green Archers?
That will be known today (Friday) when both teams collide anew for the winner-takeall contest that will send the victor to the Finals of the UAAP basketball championships.
Stung obviously by Wednesday’s defeat after it had entered the game the heavy favorite, UP-Diliman will not easily overcome the thought of blowing away a rare chance at sealing the deal right on the first game of a twice-to-beat bonus it enjoyed going to the semifinals.
The Maroons had it all coming actually.
They had beaten the Archers twice in the eliminations going to the other day’s match.
And look at this: the Maroons were fresh from their rousing win over the powerhouse Blue Eagles, gaining the lofty distinction of ending Ateneo’s 39-game winning streak that began in 2018.
In short, the ingredients were all there for UP-Diliman to thrash La Salle and make a grand entrance to the Finals of the league’s Season 84.
Alas, the Green Archers had other things in mind.
Blasting out of the gates like Kentucky thoroughbreds, the Archers immediately took control. In no time, they became unreachable, building margins as many as 22 points.
The score in La Salle’s 83-80 win hid the actual extent of how UP got trampled so badly, in much the same way that Ateneo crafted that 85-72 rout of Far Eastern U in Wednesday’s other semifinal match for the Eagles’ 16th Finals appearance.
“We played strong for 40 minutes,” said La Salle coach Derick Pumaren. “It was a total team effort.”
But give credit to rookie Archer guard Evan Nelle, the former NCAA junior star from San Beda, who scored a career-high 26 points.
If La Salle could control the pace again from the get-go, the Archers might just produce yet another stunner.
For, it was UP’s false start on Wednesday that triggered the Maroons’ cranky ride, a major flaw that must be quickly remedied if the Diliman crew – still slightly favored if it is any consolation – would wish an all-Katipunan Finals.
Otherwise, the much dreamed-about Ateneo-La Salle encounter might be back, reliving the fabled rivalry that has no equal in college basketball lore.