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MANILA, Philippines – Enjoy the moment.
That is exactly what La Salle head coach Topex Robinson wants from his wards when the Green Archers step on the hardwood against the UP Fighting Maroons in their best-of-three UAAP Season 86 finals series beginning on Wednesday, November 29, at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Led by Mark Nonoy, top MVP candidate Kevin Quiambao, and star point guard Evan Nelle, La Salle punched its ticket to the finals for the first time since 2017 after dispatching the third-seeded NU Bulldogs in the Final Four in dominant fashion, 97-73, last Saturday, November 25.
“For six years we haven’t reached the finals so we want to make sure that we have to remember what brought us here, what brought us the wins, the culture that we built, and winning is going to be the byproduct of that,” said the first-year Green Archers tactician Robinson.
“We’re going to go through a lot of challenges, but we have to always remind ourselves that we have to always enjoy the moments that we share together.”
“Just like what I always remind them, you’re always going to go back in your UAAP career, wherever you go, so we want to make sure we enjoy each and every moment,” he added.
Entering Wednesday’s match on a red-hot nine-game winning run, Robinson says that streak is a thing of the past and it’ll be a completely different ball game in the finals as La Salle takes on a battle-tested UP side, which booked a return trip to the tournament’s biggest stage for the third consecutive season.
Interestingly, La Salle’s last loss in Season 86 came at the hands of UP during their first round encounter last October 18, where the Fighting Marons eked out a 67-64 escape.
The Green Archers, though, got their payback against the Fighting Maroons in their second round duel with an 88-79 triumph earlier this month.
“The nine games are already done and over with. It brought us to the finals but it’s not going to define this championship,” said Robinson.
“We know UP, they’ve been here for the longest time, they have a great team, and we just want to keep on competing against the best. Whatever happens, we’re going to come here as somebody from the outside.”
As the Green Archers shoot for their first title in seven years, Robinson hopes his players make the most of the finals opportunity and follow the footsteps of the former La Salle legends who brought home championships to Taft Avenue.
Some members of the current Green Archers, along with Robinson, were present during the Animo Champions event on Monday, November 27, where La Salle honored the 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2016 teams by handing them their championship rings.
“When I took this job, I told them that it’s either you win a championship or you die trying. If you’re representing a program that’s rich with tradition, you’re put in a situation to honor the things and the players that came before you,” said Robinson.
“I’m just so grateful for the opportunity to represent DLSU. We want to make sure that we take care of that opportunity and not just go down, we’ll die swinging. We’re just going to give a good fight to UP.” – Rappler.com