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Back on top: La Salle reclaims UAAP glory in Game 3 blitzing of UP

MANILA, Philippines, December 7 ------ A traditional league powerhouse found its way back on top. Showing remarkable end-game poise, the La Salle Green Archers took down the UP Fighting Maroons, 73-69, in the winner-take-all Game 3 to capture their first UAAP championship in seven years in the Season 86 men’s basketball tournament on Wednesday, December 6, at the packed Araneta Coliseum. Kevin Quiambao lived up to his billing as the season MVP and Evan Nelle also helped the Green Archers stay steady in front of a crowd of over 25,000 as La Salle stormed back from a seven-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Quiambao finished with 24 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 blocks as the Finals MVP lifted La Salle to its 10th men’s basketball crown in league history.

Nelle backstopped Quiambao with an all-around effort of 12 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block, while workhorse Michael Phillips grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds on top of 5 points, 4 assists, and 2 steals. “As one of the reliables in the team, I needed to step up in the way that I can, be it on or off the ball. I just did my job,” said Quiambao in Filipino.

La Salle rose from a 0-1 series deficit, dragging top seed UP to a sudden death after recovering from an embarrassing 97-67 Game 1 rout with a dominating Game 2 fightback, 82-60. With the upset, the Archers also spoiled the Maroons’ bid to claim their second championship in three seasons. Quiambao turned in his finest scoring performance of the series after putting up just 20 points combined in the first two games as he drained four three-pointers and made 8 of his 10 free throws in the do-or-die duel. Shining under the bright lights before a UAAP men’s basketball record crowd of 25,192 fans, Quiambao took over in the pivotal 15-4 closing rally as he scattered 10 points over that stretch, including the marginal foul shots.

The Maroons grabbed a 65-58 lead off a Harold Alarcon bucket with eight minutes left before Quiambao sank a three-pointer that ignited that win-clinching run. Quiambao gave the Archers a 68-67 lead with a high looping shot as UP went scoreless for six minutes straight. Although the Maroons arrested their scoring drought off a Francis Lopez putback with 2.2 ticks left, it proved too little, too late as Quiambao sealed the victory with a pair of free throws. “It feels great to win the championship despite having a lot of people doubt us during the first round. Now, we’re champions,” said Quiambao, who averaged 14.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.7 blocks in the finals.

Jonnel Policarpio and Mark Nonoy added 8 points each for La Salle, which became the fifth UAAP school to win at least 10 men’s basketball titles, joining FEU (20), UST (18), UE (18), and Ateneo (12). The Archers gifted first-year La Salle mentor Topex Robinson his first collegiate title as a head coach after he fell short of the grand prize during his time with the San Sebastian Stags and the Lyceum Pirates in the NCAA. “I’m so grateful and honored to be a part of this amazing group of guys,” said Robinson.

Graduating big man Malick Diouf put up a 21-point, 14-rebound double-double for UP, which suffered back-to-back losses for the first and only time this season. Lopez tallied 12 points, 9 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 assists, and 3 blocks, while Alarcon added 10 points in the losing effort.

The Scores

La Salle 73 – Quiambao 24, Nelle 12, Policarpio 8, Nonoy 8, M. Phillips 5, Macalalag 5, Escandor 4, Austria 3, David 3, Cortez 1, Manuel 0, Nwankwo 0, B. Phillips 0, Abadam 0.

UP 69 – Diouf 21, Lopez 12, Alarcon 10, Cagulangan 8, Felicilda 5, Cansino 5, Torculas 4, Abadiano 2, Torres 2, Fortea 0, Pablo 0.

Quarters: 22-21, 39-43, 55-58, 73-69.



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