NU Bulldogs def. FEU Tamaraws 61-39

Who impressed: Win or lose, NU will always have Dave Ildefonso (20 points, eight rebounds) as its consistent force and it showed in this game. He’s a matchup nightmare through and through, as FEU defenders were either too small or too slow to even contain the Gilas Youth veteran. Even the flu couldn’t shut down the Ildefonshow.

How did the game go: It wasn’t pretty, that’s for sure. FEU has historically been a low-scoring team but they took it to a whole other level by scoring just 39 points versus NU. It was a mix of everything going bad for the Tamaraws, as aside from NU locking down on D, the Tamaraws simply couldn’t buy a basket. For NU, like what Coach Jamike always says, “The harder you work, the luckier you get.” They’ve been playing well all season long and it was refreshing to see them finally notch a win. They deserve this moment.

What to look forward to: For NU, they’ve always said that there’s nowhere to go but up. So here you are, finally with a win and more possibilities right in front of you. Right now, every game for them is practically a do or die if they want to keep their Final Four hopes alive. The goal is for them to build on this and keep their momentum up.

For FEU, well, Coach Denok Miranda put it best when he talked to Boom Gonzales. “ALAT!” To their credit, they’ve been one of the more organized teams in the league, so it’s best for them to stay the course. This is a transition year, for better or for worse. That core of Gonzales-Torres-Alforque will be very good down the line. They just need to have trust in their program and they will eventually be back to contending.

Ateneo Blue Eagles def. UE Red Warriors 85-68

Who impressed: Thirdy and Ange continue to be the anchors of Ateneo but a pleasant surprise these past few games has been SJ Belangel (Six points, two rebounds, three assists). He has been one of the most efficient players for the Blue Eagles, never failing to contribute to the team whenever he’s on the floor. His motor on both ends continues to be impeccable and he’s slowly growing into his own as a leader. Ateneo’s going to be alright once Matt Nieto graduates; they have SJ ready to take charge.

How did the game go: UE came up with a terrific game plan as they switched EVERYTHING during the first half. It forced Ateneo into difficult shots and it even messed their defense up. But the Blue Eagles woke up and flipped the switch to take control during the second half. It’s what makes Ateneo so unfair; you think you have them on the ropes one second but with the snap of a finger, they make your lead disappear. They continue to be the league’s most inevitable force.

What to look forward to: For Ateneo, if there’s a time for them to further establish themselves as the league’s very best, it’s on Sunday. It’s how Tab likes it; one game at a time. UP’s next and we await how they respond to the Fighting Maroons’ talent.

For UE, they have to hold onto that first half performance. They’ve been playing promising basketball and their young pieces have shown plenty of potential. Rey Suerte has been getting all the press but guys like Jojo Antiporda have been showing out for them. The challenge is to not allow that second half to get to their heads. 

UP Fighting Maroons def. DLSU Green Archers 72-71

Who impressed: Juan Gomez de Liano saved the day for UP but someone who also deserves as much love is Bright Akhuetie (17 points, 14 rebounds, two steals). He was a stable force for UP, making life hard for DLSU’s depth with his effort and smart play down low. UP wouldn’t have made its comeback without Bright helping them hold on to the ropes. He’s easily been UP’s best and most valuable player this season. 

How did the game go: It was exciting, but to call it quality basketball would disappoint Serbia’s former head coach. It was absolute PANDEMONIUM as bodies were on the floor diving for loose balls with both teams trying to secure possession. Misses and turnovers were aplenty as either team had trouble gaining control of the game. It all boiled down to a single moment, as a costly turnover by Aljun Melecio allowed Juan GDL to pull up and have his moment with a game-winning three. You only need to lead by at least one to win games. UP has been the epitome of that this season.

What to look forward to: For UP, Ateneo’s next. If there’s a time for them to truly establish themselves as title contenders, it’s this game. They have a better roster (on paper) than last year and they’re on pace to win more games as well. Anything less than their performance last year will probably be considered a dud.

For La Salle, this one hurts. This was their to lose and guess what, they did lose it. They need to recover quick as they have a deadly UST squad up next. They’ve historically blown out UST  since Season 79 but it will be a lot tougher to do that this time around. Their Final Four dreams are definitely on the line at this point.