De La Salle University guns for a return trip to the finals while Adamson University seeks to force a deciding game when the two teams collide at the start of the Final Four action in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 80 men’s basketball tournament today at the Araneta Coliseum.
The No. 2 Green Archers and the No. 3 Soaring Falcons square off at 4 p.m., with the former holding a twice-to-beat advantage.
Defending champion La Salle snared one of the semifinals incentives with a 101-76 drubbing of National University last November 4 but needed to beat archrival Ateneo De Manila University to force a Final Four format.
Behind the heroics of Kib Montalbo and Ricci Rivero and another solid outing from back-to-back Most Valuable Player Ben Mbala, the Archers got even with the Blue Eagles, 79-76, in the final game of the elimination round, preventing the erstwhile unbeaten Ateneo from going straight to the finals.
Mbala muscled his way to an all-around performance of 28 points, 19 rebounds, six blocks and six steals while Montalbo and Rivero took charge in the endgame.
The Archers’ win forced the Eagles to a semifinals match against fourth seed Far Eastern University on Sunday at the same time and venue.
“Actually, it could have been easier for us because there’s going to be a stepladder. Before we play Adamson, they will have to play FEU (first). We still have the twice-to-beat. But since it’s La Salle versus Ateneo, we’re not going to back down,” said La Salle head coach Aldin Ayo.
Adamson, on the other hand, sealed its place to the playoffs with a 9-4 slate after an 86-70 romp over University of the Philippines last November 5.
Papi Sarr tallied a double-double of 25 points and 17 rebounds for the Falcons in that crucial win while Jerie Pingoy was equally impressive as the playmaker chalked 15 markers, eight assists and six steals.
“Our mentality is Final Four mode already,” said seasoned mentor Franz Pumaren after the Falcons secured a berth to the post-season.
The San Marcelino-based squad though is coming off a 54-71 loss to Far Eastern U after seeing a key players Jerrick Ahanmisi and Pingoy sprain their ankles.
Last season, La Salle and Adamson also faced each other in the semifinals, with the Archers advancing to the finals via a 69-64 victory and went on to win the crown.