UP, La Salle brace for  showdown for UAAP basketball supremacy

UP, La Salle brace for  showdown for UAAP basketball supremacy

Games Wednesday
(Mall of Asia Arena)
12 p.m. — NU vs UST
(women’s finals)
6 p.m — UP vs DLSU
(men’s finals)

WORLDS collide as University of the Philippines (UP) and De La Salle University (DLSU) lock horns in their first-ever title showdown for the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball supremacy.

The Fighting Maroons and the Green Archers, who lived up to lofty billings as the top-seeds, march into the battlefield with hopes of dealing the pivotal first blow as the UAAP Season 86 best-of-three finale unfurls at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Game time is at 6 p.m. after the opening salvo of seven-peat champion National University and challenger University of Santo Tomas (UST) in the women’s basketball finals at 12 p.m.

UP and De La Salle, which finished 1-2 in the two-round eliminations for twice-to-beat incentives in the Final Four, forged a historic battle after making short work of dethroned titlist Ateneo de Manila University and NU, respectively.

The hoopers from Diliman snapped the Blue Eagles’ six straight finals appearance, 57-46, as the red-hot Taft-based dribblers smothered the Bulldogs, 97-73, for their ninth straight win.

The Fighting Maroons in the process advanced to their third straight finals appearance — all under coach Goldwin Monteverde — with the Green Archers gifting new coach Topex Robinson a finals stint in his debut season while ending a six-year drought.

Overall, it’s the 17th straight finals appearance of the Green Archers in the Final Four era for the most in UAAP but they’ve never met the Maroons since they transferred from the NCAA to the UAAP in 1986.

Until now.

That’s also the year when UP won the UAAP before embarking on a 36-year drought that it finally snapped in Season 84 — turning this finale to a date for the ages.

Both teams vow to embrace the challenge, as well as the pressure that comes with it. “It’s something that’s really special — my first time here coaching DLSU in the finals and playing against UP. I know it’s gonna be an exciting ball game,” said Mr. Robinson, who had stints in the NCAA and PBA before finding himself as the chief tactician in Taft.

“Whether I like it or not, there’s gonna be pressure. It could either stop you or really motivate you. I’m gonna choose the latter,” added Mr. Robinson, whose wards just had an added fire lit within them after gracing the ring ceremony of previous De La Salle champion teams.

UP echoes the same mentality with hopes of coming away with its second crown in the last three seasons after this rare encounter with De La Salle that also features well-balanced protagonists led by reigning Most Valuable Player (MVP) Malick Diouf and runaway MVP race leader Kevin Quiambao. — John Bryan Ulanday