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MANILA, Philippines — Seven-time defending champion National University headlines the UAAP Season 86 women’s basketball Final Four – a dominant cast who clinched their semifinal slots as early as last week.
Action starts on Wednesday, November 22, at the Mall of Asia Arena, with the top-seeded NU Lady Bulldogs facing the No. 4 Ateneo Blue Eagles at 9 am, followed by the 11 am duel between the second-ranked UST Tigresses squaring off with the third-placed UP Fighting Maroons.
Both NU and UST hold a twice-to-beat advantage, needing only to win once to advance to the best-of-three championship series.
Here’s the semifinal cast:
NU Lady Bulldogs (13-1)
Still the favorites, the NU Lady Bulldogs gun for their eighth straight crown after finishing the elimination round as the top seed with a 13-1 record.
Led by team veterans Camille Clarin and youngster Karl Pingol, the Lady Bulldogs are coached by second-year coach Aris Dimaunahan.
UST Growling Tigresses (11-3)
Falling short of a finals appearance last season, UST was pegged to be one of the championship favorites heading to this season, and the Tigresses proved to be on track after finishing the eliminations with an 11-3 card.
Reigning league MVP Eka Soriano backstops leading team scorer Kent Pastrana (17.6 ppg), and Tantoy Ferrer (12.0 ppg), who’s back after getting sidelined by an ACL tear in Season 85.
The Tigresses, coached by former national team tactician Haydee Ong, target their first finals appearance since Season 82 in 2019.
UP Fighting Maroons (10-4)
Making a return after a long playoff drought are the UP Maroons, who made their first postseason appearance since 2008, where they fell short in the title round against the FEU Lady Tamaraws.
The Maroons, coached by Paul Ramos, recorded a 10-4 slate behind the exploits of Gilas Women standout Louna Ozar (11.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 4.1 apg, 2.6 spg), Kaye Pesquera (10.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.4 apg), and foreign student-athlete Favour Onoh (10.1 ppg, 13.9 rpg, 1.2 apg).
UP dealt NU its lone loss of the eliminations, a thrilling 72-69 win, courtesy of Onoh’s 18 points, 15 boards, 4 blocks, and 4 steals.
Ateneo Blue Eagles (8-6)
Looking to make the biggest upset in years are the Blue Eagles, who ended up with an 8-6 record after 14 games.
Ateneo is led by MVP frontrunner Kacey dela Rosa, who averaged 19.6 points, 12.0 rebounds, 1.2 assists. 1.5 steals, and 2.6 blocks.
Joining her are Junize Calago and Jhaz Joson, who put up combined numbers of 24.8 points, 13.4 rebounds, and 9.2 assists.
The team is mentored by LA Mumar, who steered the Lyceum juniors program from cellar-dweller to a powerhouse in the NCAA.
The DLSU Lady Archers, last year’s finalists, endured the losses of Marga Jimenez and Fina Niantcho Tchuido, both key cogs in the team’s strong campaign last season.
Starting off on the wrong foot with a 2-5 record, the team bounced back, going 5-2 the rest of the way, but the Archers still fell a rung short of a semis spot with an even 7-7 record.
Adamson ended up sixth with a 4-10 standing despite the injury to team captain Rose Ann Dampios, who tore her ACL in the preseason and was able to play limited minutes this season.
The Lady Falcons are coached by former Adamson player Ryan Monteclaro.
A traditional powerhouse, the Lady Tamaraws languished at seventh with a 3-11 record, and were led by foreign student-athlete Josee Kaputu, who paced the league in scoring at 21.9 ppg.
The team remains to be coached by longtime FEU mentor Bert Flores.
Finishing dead last are the UE Lady Warriors, who ended up winless in 14 games.
Despite their woeful record, coach Aileen Lebornio was relentless in teaching grit to her wards. — Rappler.com