UAAP: UP-La Salle will be a toss-up, says Coach Tab

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 06 2022 08:03 AM | Updated as of May 06 2022 08:05 AM

La Salle and UP will battle for the second and last spot in the finals on Friday. UAAP Media.
La Salle and UP will battle for the second and last spot in the finals on Friday. UAAP Media.

MANILA, Philippines -- De La Salle University and the University of the Philippines (UP) have figured in three close games in UAAP Season 84, and odds are their fourth encounter on Friday will be another tight affair.

This is the expectation of Ateneo de Manila University head coach Tab Baldwin, who will certainly be watching closely as La Salle and UP contest the second and last spot in the UAAP Season 84 finals at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Awaiting the winner of Friday's games are Baldwin's Blue Eagles, who needed just one game -- an 85-72 victory against Far Eastern University -- to advance to the championship series for the fifth season in a row.

"Heck of a game today between those two teams," Baldwin said after they defeated the Tamaraws.

The Ateneo coaching staff had been interested observers in the first game of Wednesday's double-header, which saw La Salle get off to a roaring start and pull away by as much as 22 points. But UP clawed their way back, and their reserves made the end game a tight affair.

The Fighting Maroons got within three points in the final minute, but ran out of time to complete the comeback. Clutch free throws by Evan Nelle gave La Salle an 83-80 win and sent their Final 4 match-up to a deciding game.

"Probably, if you polled the coaches around the league, probably most of us would have said it was a toss-up," Baldwin said of the La Salle-UP match-up. "The two regular season games between the two teams were very close."

UP won both of their elimination round games, but only by slim margins: they won 61-59 in round 1, and 72-69 in round 2. 

The Fighting Maroons entered the Final 4 game on a high note, having ended Ateneo's 39-game winning streak just days before. But they couldn't find the same gear against the Green Archers, and it was too late once they finally gained some rhythm.

"It's difficult for UP coming off a historic win, to turn around and get themselves right back up," Baldwin noted. "And yet, La Salle played really well. It was a tremendous comeback by UP at the end."

"So, it's gonna be a great game on Friday, and who knows? I still think it's a toss-up," he predicted. "I still think that perhaps, UP might be the smallest of favorites in the game. Because certainly, they will now have that motivation of having lost the game."

"But I wouldn't put any money on it, even if I had tons of it. I wouldn't put any money on the outcome of this game."

Tip-off is at 6:00 p.m.

A victory for UP would send them to their second finals appearance in the last three seasons, having reached the championship series in Season 81 where they were swept by the Blue Eagles.

La Salle, meanwhile, is seeking to return to the finals for the first time since 2017, when they lost to Ateneo in three games. 

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