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UE Warriors exit with a bang

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University of the East played the spoiler’s role in the University of the Philippines’ bid to end the season on a high note yesterday after posting an 80-67 victory in UAAP basketball at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Red Warriors leaned on a strong start, padded the lead to 24 in the third quarter before maintaining the driver’s seat all the way to the end to snap a four-game losing skid while denying the Maroons a fitting end to a season filled with promise.

Philip Mañalang, Renz Palma and Bonbon Batiller, who returned in the second quarter after being carried on a stretcher due to a bad fall, topscored with 14 points apiece as UE improved to 3-10 entering its final game on Wednesday against fancied Far Eastern University.

“I think we really played to our full potential,” said UE coach Derrick Pumaren. “We stayed aggressive the whole game and even though UP made a run, we still kept our poise.”

Batiller fell to the ground after being fouled in the second quarter, and was sent to the dugout on a stretcher.

But the former cager of Holy Trinity School in General Santos City was able to come back and helped UE take a 61-37 lead with 4:24 remaining in the third.

UP’s closest was 12 on three occasions in the fourth period, but failed to come closer that saw a sad conclusion to a campaign under first-year coach Bo Perasol that was far out of the ordinary.

The Maroons, perennial losers in recent seasons, ended the year at 5-9 after coming back from a 1-6 record in the first round.

UP even had an outside chance of making the Final Four for the first time since 1997 before the Adamson Falcons clinched the remaining berth at midweek.

Jett Manuel and Dave Moralde, who led the way with 13 points each, and Henri Asilum played their final games with a loss but expressed optimism of UP making a big turnaround next season following a late season surge.

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