By Ivan Stewart Saldajeno
MANILA — All of a sudden, there is an interesting Final 4 race in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP).
La Salle and Far Eastern University won in contrasting fashion to complicate matters in the race for the last three playoff spots in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City on Sunday night.
The Green Archers made quick work of the National University Bulldogs, 85-61, in the first game, while the Tamaraws repulsed the Bo Perasol-less University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons in overtime, 82-79, in the main game to force a tie with the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers for third to fifth spots at 4-4.
La Salle pulled away from NU from the get-go, outscoring its hapless foe, 26-9, in the first quarter.
Balti Baltazar led the Green Archers with an eye-popping 25-point and 25-rebound performance, a rarity among locals in college basketball, alongside two assists and two blocks.
Andrei Caracut added 16 points, six rebounds, and five assists.
Dave Ildefonso put up 11 markers, two rebounds, and one steal for the Bulldogs, who fell further to 1-7.
Meanwhile, FEU blew a lead as high as 19 points in regulation and 16 in the last six minutes before repulsing UP in the overtime period.
Ken Tuffin put up 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting, five rebounds, and one steal for the Tamaraws.
LJ Gonzales added a double-double of 17 points and 12 rebounds with six assists and one steal.
Pat Tchuente also had a double-double with 14 markers and 11 caroms.
Kobe Paras made 22 points, nine rebounds, and six steals for the Fighting Maroons, but he needed 24 field goal attempts to get his points as they fell to 5-3, just a game ahead of their tormentors, the Archers, and the Tigers.
Bright Akhuetie added 14 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, and two blocks. (PNA)
La Salle 85 – Baltazar 25, Caracut 16, Malonzo 12, Lojera 9, Serrano 8, Melecio 6, Bates 4, Manuel 4, Hill 1, Bartlett 0, Escandor 0, Lim 0
NU 61 – D. Ildefonso 11, S. Ildefonso 10, Diputado 8, Gallego 7, Clemente 5, Galinato 5, Gaye 5, Tibayan 3, Yu 3, Mangayao 2, Minerva 2, Joson 0, Malonzo 0, Oczon 0
Quarterscores: 26-9, 44-24, 65-48- 85-61
FEU 82 – Tuffin 18, Gonzales 17, Tchuente 14, Torres 12, Comboy 10, Stockton 5, Cani 4, Eboña 2, Alforque 0, Bayquin 0, Bienes 0, Celzo 0, Nunag 0
UP (79) – Paras 22, Akhuetie 14, Ja. Gomez de Liaño 11, Ju. Gomez de Liaño 8, Manzo 7, Tungcab 5, Rivero 4, Spencer 3, Webb 3, Prado 2, Jaboneta 0, Murrell 0
Quarterscores: 18-17, 30-27, 60-43, 69-69, 82-79