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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

La Salle Archers force title decider vs. UP Maroons

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The La Salle Green Archers willed themselves to fight for another day in the 86th University Athletic Association of the Philippine men’s basketball finals.

Before a big crowd of 20,863, the Green Archers kept the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons from celebrating their quest for a third title with a crushing 82-60 win in Game 2 of their best-of-three finals’ series on Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.

Veteran Francis Escandor top-scored with a season-high 14 points for La Salle and was ably backed up by second unit players Joshua David, CJ Austria and JC Macalag as the Archers equalized the series at 1-win apiece and forced a deciding Game 3 on Wednesday.

“The players did not want to end the finals right away. We just gave UP a good fight. The players really wanted it this afternoon,” said La Salle coach Topex Robinson after the Taft-based Archers bounced back from their worst defeat, a 30-point 67-97 blowout they absorbed in Game 1 last Wednesday.

The 6’3” Escandor, who is on his last year with the squad, had his best game as an Archer, as he went past his average of 4.5 points, along with Joshua David, who stormed past his norm of 3.4 points with his 12-point output.

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Austria also impressed, stepping up for a well-guarded Season MVP Kevin Quiambao with 11 points.

The 6’6” Quiambao, who was limited to nine points, focused on rebounding, hauling 13 boards, 10 off which came on the defensive end.

The Green Archers swung things in their favor in the last 2:24 of the second quarter, with Escandor unloading three triples during an 18-6 run, which got La Salle out of a 28-all deadlock and into a 44-38 lead at halftime.

Escandor handed the Green Archers their biggest advantage on what it stood at the end with 45 ticks to go with a triple from the left side.

“Malaking bagay ito. Definitely, we will learn from this. We need to play consistently as a team. There are situations with the team, like facing challenges not by themselves, but as a team,” said UP coach Goldwin Monteverde as the Fighting Maroons seek to end the series on Wednesday with a win.

Quiambao is the fifth Green Archer to win the league’s highest individual honor after Jun Limpot (Seasons 52, 53, and 55 — 1989, 1990, 1992), Mark Telan (Seasons 59 and 60 — 1996, 1997), Don Allado (Seasons 61 and 62 — 1998, 1999), and Ben Mbala (Seasons 79 and 80 — 2016, 2017).

The 22-year-old Quiambao averaged 16.71 points, 10.86 rebounds, 6.0 assists, and 1.93 steals per game in the elimination round, amassing 97.0 statistical points.

CJ Cansino and Malick Diouf led the Maroons with 11 points, while Harold Alarcon chipped in 10.

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