UP strengthens Final Four bid, dominates NU

by Luisa Morales

The Lady Maroons are back with a vengeance.

The University of the Philippines (UP) Lady Maroons overpowered the  National University (NU) Lady Bulldogs as they win in four sets, 25-14, 25-27, 25-21, 25-12, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, Sunday.

The Diliman volleybelles dominated every aspect of the match, avenging their first round loss to Jaja Santiago and the Lady Bulldogs.

UP veteran Nicole Tiamzon did not see action the whole match, with reserve Aiesha Laine Gannaban starting in all four sets.

It was a great day for UP fans. The Lady Maroons were on fire from the get-go, taking advantage of the poor reception of their opponents.

Loaded serves and powerful spikes from the Diliman squad allowed them to cruise through the first set, 25-14.

But the Bulldogs weren’t afraid to bite back. The second set was tighter with both squads going back-and-forth until the end.

NU had a set point 24-23 but the Lady Maroons managed to extend the set. Despite UP getting a set point of their own, NU was able to win the set 27-25; tying the game at one set a piece.

By the third set, State U looked poised to dominate again. Great floor defense and attacking from the Maroons looked too much for NU to handle.

It was all UP as they led the set 17-5, but NU did not go down without a fight. With a stunning 15-3 run, they caught up with UP at 20-all.

The UP fans were at the edge of their seats as the set was suddenly within NU’s reach.

Key plays from State U, however, powered the Diliman-based squad to take a 2-1 lead, 25-21.

Unfazed by the fierce comeback of their opponents, UP came into the fourth set looking to finish strong.

NU looked tired as State U kept pounding the Lady Bulldogs with loaded serves, while UP veteran Kathy Bersola answered everything Santiago had to offer.

The Lady Maroons ended the match on a high note, dominating NU all throughout the set, 25-12.

UP finished the match with five Lady Maroons in double figures – Bersola, Isa Molde and Tots Carlos had 14 points apiece, while Gannaban and Ali Buitre chipped in 13 and 12 points, respectively.

Captain Jaja Santiago led NU with 18 points, followed by Aiko Urdas with 12 markers.

With the crucial win, the Lady Maroons tie the Lady Bulldogs at fourth place with a 7-5 win-loss card, and more importantly, keep their Final Four hopes alive.

UP is set to face the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Tigresses, currently at solo third, on April 2, at the Mall Of Asia Arena.

UP breaks 13-game losing streak against Ateneo

By Luisa Morales

The University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons upset the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) Blue Eagles, 56-52, at the Mall of Asia Arena, Saturday.

Dating back to UAAP Season 72 in 2009, the Maroons broke a thirteen-game, seven-year losing streak against their Katipunan-based brothers with the four-point victory. Incidentally, Ateneo’s last loss to UP before tonight was their only loss that season, as they barrelled on straight to a championship victory.

The Eagles started the game strong; outscoring UP, 9-2. True to their name, the Fighting Maroons fought back and ended the 1st period with a 8-2 run. ADMU’s lead was cut to one, 11-10.

The second quarter saw back-and-forth shots between the teams. Tight defense caused a lockdown until the 7-minute mark. By the half, the game was tied at 23-all.

It was still the same story after the half, with neither team getting ahead of the other by more than a bucket or two. Manuel ended the third with a bang for UP as he hit a trey at the buzzer to give his team the lead, 41-39.

Early in the fourth, UP was able to break away from Ateneo and had their biggest lead of the game, 51-44, courtesy of buckets from feisty reserve guard Jarrell Lim, who had a season-high eight points. However, the Eagles fought back with a six-point run to cut the lead to one, 51-50.

After a rare promotion to the starting lineup, big man Gelo Vito sank a clutch three to supposedly increase the lead to four. However, Vito’s shot was not counted because of an offensive foul called against Paul Desiderio on Ateneo’s GBoy Babilonia.

Unfazed, Vito was able to redeem himself and buried another rainbow shot from the corner to put UP up 54-50 with 16 seconds to go. This would be only his second converted three all season long in ten attempts.

Ticking off just three seconds from the clock, Ateneo’s Adrian Wong sank a very quick bucket and brought ADMU within two, 54-52.

With the clock running down, Ateneo quickly fouled the Maroons to stop the clock. Clutch free throws from Maroon co-captain Jett Manuel sealed the deal for UP.

“When I get into clutch situations I think Mamba Mentality… I pumped myself up, telling myself you make these free throws everyday” Manuel said. According to the game commentators, he had only previously missed two free-throws all season long.

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Manuel, as usual, led the team with 15 points, followed by a balanced effort from Desiderio, Dave Moralde, Lim and Vito, who combined for 32 points. On the other end, Ateneo only had two scorers in double-figures, namely Wong and import Chibueze Ikeh, who had ten markers apiece.

Despite only having a 21% clip from downtown, UP grounded the Eagles to a horrid 8% team three-point percentage as they missed 20/24 threes. Although Ateneo sank more free-throws, they missed seven out of 14 makes while UP converted all six of their shots from the stripe.

Following this win, UP improves to 2-6; their record tied with the University of Santo Tomas (UST) and the University of the East (UE) as ADMU falls to 4-4. By virtue of the tiebreaker rule, UP is now in seventh place ahead of UST and behind UE.

UP will next face the fourth-seeded Adamson University (AdU) Soaring Falcons on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2:00 p.m. at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.