MANILA, Philippines – At one point in the season, the La Salle Green Archers seemed to have secured their spot in the top 4 of the UAAP men’s basketball tournament.
Showing signs of peaking after a three-game winning streak, La Salle held the solo 3rd spot before the Ateneo Blue Eagles halted their momentum.
Then last Wednesday, November 14, the Green Archers faltered again versus the University of the Philippines (UP) to yield the 3rd spot, which marked the Fighting Maroons’ return to the Final Four after 21 long years. (WATCH: Perasol turns emotional after Maroons’ historic romp)
“[N]ag-focus kami manalo para sure na sa Final Four,” said La Salle guard Aljun Melecio. “Pero nangyari ito (talo). So hindi pa naman kami out, may chance pa kami. We just have to focus on our next game and bahala na mamaya.”
(We tried to focus on winning so that we’re assured of a Final Four spot. But the loss happened. We’re not out of the Final Four yet, we still have a chance. We just have to focus on our next game and let’s just see what happens from there.)
At 8-6, La Salle is assured of at least a playoff for the last Final Four spot. But Far Eastern University (FEU) is just right on their heels at 5th place with a 7-6 slate.
Ateneo (12-2) and Adamson (10-3) already secured the top two berths, which come with twice-to-beat incentives, while UP (8-6) put a lock on the No. 3 seat regardless of ties due to a superior quotient.
FEU will play Adamson on the last day of eliminations on Sunday in a must-win game to stay alive.
A Tamaraws loss will automatically award the No.4 spot to the Green Archers, who will then take on fierce rival Ateneo in the semifinals.
But if FEU manages to complete an elimination sweep of Adamson, then the Tamaraws will set up a playoff clash with the Green Archers for the last Final Four spot.
Melecio rued that the Green Archers – who last missed the Final Four in 2015 but won the championship the following year – could have been in an easier situation. But he credited the Maroons’ play.
“[It was] the breaks of the game and they (Maroons) played pretty well,” said Melecio. “Pumapasok ‘yung shots nila and sa amin hindi (Their shots were going in and ours weren’t). So props to UP.”
The 2016 Rookie of the Year also factored in the presence of an emotional and fired up UP crowd that motivated the Maroons to flash their best form.
But if the Archers advance to the Final Four, Melecio is bracing for an even tougher crowd.
“Mas grabe pa ‘yung Ateneo (The Ateneo crowd is still worse),” he said. – Rappler.com