MANILA, Philippines – Keeping the University of the Philippines in the lead, the UAAP Season 84 men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena held La Salle to a 61-59 victory on Thursday.
Javier Lucero scored 12 points in the final 6:18, leading the Maroons with 21 points, including a slam and a clutch triple. That bunch made the final count with its last two points 1:43 left as both schools fought an ugly battle of attrition featuring missed shots and key errors.
La Salle’s spring big Mike Phillips missed a drive just in time, allowing UP to defend its fifth win in six games.
La Salle went down 4-2.
In a mini-run game where the archers seemed good enough to stay one step ahead, the Maroons found enough juice from their own high-motor forward at Lucero, whose late offense eventually sent La Salle to a second defeat in his last three outings. .
Lucero added 14 rebounds for the double-double and was the only UP player in the double-figure.
Justin Baltazar led La Salle with 13 points and 10 boards.
The defenders of Baltazar and La Salle kept their team afloat in the first half, while Evan Nelle nailed the archers with pullups from inside and outside the arch to keep them one step ahead. Nelle was injured with 13 points and three steals.
Mark Nine drilled a three-pointer two steps behind the line and then fouled Gary Abadiano, forcing Mike Phillips to make a split that put La Salle ahead, 33-26, 2:41 left.
But big man Carl Tamayo knocked through the defense for a simple bucket then stopped a burglary and went ashore for a lay-up as UP cut the deficit to 35-32 at break.
Baltzar, Nelle and Nine combined for 25 of La Salle’s total outputs in the first half, Baltazar added six rebounds as he and his partner Gilas Pilipinus standout Tamayo provided an impressive subplot matchup in the first two terms.
Tamayo had nine points and seven rebounds in the first two terms, but missed seven of his 11 attempts off the field. He failed to score in the second half but finished with 11 boards.
The archers held the Maroons to a single field goal that lasted about six minutes, where the UP CJ survived on Cansino’s transition basket.
But when Lucero scored at the 6:18 mark, UP was able to open the only run needed to snatch the victory.
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