La Salle wins fifth-straight to clinch spot in Final Four

De La Salle University punched its return to the UAAP Season Men’s Basketball Final Four by outlasting Adamson University with a 69-57 decision on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Green Archers improved their record to 8-3 in third place in the standings off a league-best five-game winning streak that has seen them accrue an average winning margin of 14.0 points.

Coach Topex Robinson achieved what his predecessor Derick Pumaren failed to do last season with three games left to spare in the elimination round.

Under Pumaren in Season 85, the Green Archers failed to make the semifinals by a game after an 80-76 loss to the Soaring Falcons in the playoff.

“We’re just so grateful and blessed to be in this situation right now that we’re in,” said Robinson. “These guys just never, never gave us. It was really hard coming off that game against UP. They never took a break. They just kept on grinding. Guys are hurt but they just said so be it.

“These guys really are warriors and we’re just happy that we slugged it out with Adamson and got the win tonight,” the head coach who led Lyceum of the Philippines University to back-to-back finals appearance in the NCAA added.

From a slender 54-50 edge by the end of the third quarter, the La Salle quartet of Evan Nelle, Bright Nwankwo, Mark Nonoy, and Michael Phillips extended La Salle’s cushion to 64-55 with five minutes left on the game clock.

However, Nigerian center OJ Ojarikre and Jhon Calisay brought the Soaring Falcons within 64-57 at the 4:00 mark but they failed to inch closer as they were limited to just seven points in the payoff period.

Matthew Montebon air-balled a three and the Soaring Falcons committed a costly turnover, which allowed Joshua David and Kevin Quiambao to ice the game by giving the Green Archers their biggest lead of 12 points with 12 seconds left.

“Alam naman na it’s gonna be hard for us to get a win against Adamson,” said Robinson. “We just tried to focus on just one stop at a time, you know, score (and) stop. We knew Adamson would make a run. What’s important was that we stuck together just like all the time that we have this kind of adversity.”

Quiambao was once again at the forefront of La Salle’s winning run as he produced 11 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, one steal, and one block while Michael Phillips got eight points and seized 11 rebounds.

Joshua David also contributed eight points and seven rebounds for the Green Archers, who also previously defeated the Soaring Falcons 71-58 last October 11 in the first round.

The Green Archers made 22 uncontested field goals to the Soaring Falcons’ two. La Salle also controlled the boards by getting 50 rebounds to Adamson’s 40.

La Salle will seek to strengthen its bid for a playoff advantage against University of the East this Sunday at 4 p.m. at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

On the other hand, the Soaring Falcons fell to 5-6 in fourth place tied with the Ateneo Blue Eagles. They will figure in a much-anticipated game on Sunday, 2 p.m. still at the Big Dome.

Didat Hanapi paced Adamson with 16 points while Montebon and Joem Sabandal chipped in 11 and 10 points respectively.

The Scores:

DLSU (69) – Quiambao 11, M. Phillips 8, David 8, Macalalag 8, Abadam 8, Nelle 7, Nonoy 5, Austria 4, Nwankwo 4, Escandor 2, Gollena 2, Manuel 2, B. Phillips 0.

AdU (57) – Hanapi 16, Montebon 11, Sabandal 10, Calisay 7, Manzano 4, Yerro 3, Ojarikre 2, Colonia 2, Ramos 2, Anabo 0, Magbuhos 0, Cañete 0, Erolon 0, Barasi 0, Barcelona 0.

Quarterscores: 20-18, 43-34, 54-50, 69-57.