De La Salle Green Archers def. UE Red Warriors 65-59
Who impressed: Justine. Freaking. Baltazar. (23 points, 12 rebounds) If it weren’t for Balti being the consistent force that he is, La Salle could have easily lost another upset versus UE. He’s easily the best local big man in the UAAP right now (maybe even in College basketball? Discuss!) as he’s just found a blend of skill while maximizing whatever physical tools he has. Nevermind that Alex Diakhite is bigger than him. Baltazar simply FINDS WAYS. So freaking good.
What happened: Disaster averted for La Salle. UE proved its first round win wasn’t a fluke as they kept it close versus the Green Archers all game long. They never allowed themselves to be overwhelmed by La Salle’s talent and kept on pressuring La Salle’s offense. It certainly didn’t help La Salle struggled to make their free throws. It was a tight game all throughout, but at the end of the day, La Salle’s superior depth and firepower was enough to beat the Red Warriors.
What to look forward to: For La Salle, any win is a big boost for them given how TIGHT the Final Four race is. Up next for them is FEU, who despite losing to Ateneo, have plenty of momentum going for them. If they thought the UE defense was tough to go up against, FEU’s is even tougher. Saturday will be very interesting between the two teams.
For UE, the road to a Final Four berth just got even tougher. At this point, it’s win or go home for them since the maximum amount of wins they can get is just six. It’s tough to be optimistic especially when you factor in that Rey Suerte is leaving after this season. But the Red Warriors have no other choice.
Ateneo Blue Eagles def. FEU Tamaraws 65-55
Who impressed: Angelo Kouame and Thirdy Ravena are forever inevitable for the Blue Eagles. But let’s give some love to Patrick Maagdenberg (Nine points, 4/4 FG, four rebounds) who kept the Blue Eagles afloat all game long. It feels weird to say that someone needed to keep the Blue Eagles afloat but that’s exactly what Pat did. His energy was consistent all game long and it eventually translated itself to the fourth quarter when he helped Ateneo finally get the lead for good.
What happened: This had all the makings of a blowout during the start of the fourth quarter. Ateneo immediately scored three straight baskets to lead 7-0 and right there and then, FEU could have thrown in the towel to call it a day. But they didn’t, as they clawed right back and even took a 40-29 lead by the end of the first half. Their defense was tenacious as they took advantage of every careless Ateneo error. Eventually, once the second half got rolling, the Blue Eagles locked back in and scored 36 points versus FEU’s 15. The third quarter Blue Eagles remain undefeated, but you can’t deny how good of an effort that was by the Tamaraws.
What to look forward to: For Ateneo, they NEEDED this TYPE of game. The last time they were pushed this hard was during the first round when UST lost by just one point against them. Ever since then it’s been cruise control as Ateneo’s rolled off wins with ease. But not this time. This kind of game reminds the Blue Eagles they have a target on their back. If they truly want to sweep the elimination round, they can’t be caught sleepwalking.
For FEU, they cannot let up. They’ve had two straight GREAT performances, pushing two title contenders to the very brink. Their defense continues to be their anchor but their offense is starting to pick up. LJay Gonzales continues to be stellar. Wendell Comboy has ice in his veins. Keep this kind of play up and they could very well make the Finals.