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La Salle guns for finals berth

Game Today
(Mall of Asia Arena)
4 p.m. – La Salle vs Adamson

Adamson fights for life.

Concerns of rust is something the La Salle Green Archers hope will not play a factor as they seek to clinch the first finals against the Adamson Falcons today in the start of the UAAP Final Four at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Coach Aldin Ayo expressed that worry 11 days ago when the mighty Green Archers ended the double-round eliminations with a league-best 13-1 record, with their only defeat coming at the hands of the archrival Ateneo Blue Eagles.

“Ang hirap mag-antay e, nakakainip” Ayo said after La Salle’s 73-69 victory over Far Eastern University last Nov. 12 at the Mall of Asia Arena. “We’re going to establish our system, go back to the basics, and go back to the small details. We’re going to cover that.”

La Salle carries a twice-to-beat advantage while needing just one victory over Adamson to advance to secure the school’s 18th finals appearance since joining the country’s premier collegiate league in 1986.

Adamson, which made the semis for the first time since 2011, went fourth in the eliminations at 8-6, and many are expecting the Falcons to be used as launching pad in the Green Archers’ bid for a ninth UAAP crown.

That is why Falcons coach Franz Pumaren is relishing the underdog role, saying his young team has everything to gain in their match with his alma mater.

“We just have to make sure that we keep the game close, keep the rebounding close and limit our turnovers,” Pumaren said. “It’s gonna be exciting, I’ll say it’s gonna be fun. Anyway, (La Salle’s) supposed to win naman e.

“For us, we have everything to gain and we have nothing to lose,” added the mentor who steered La Salle to five championships from 1998 to 2009.

Ben Mbala is expected to keep the form that made him the soon-to-be UAAP Most Valuable Player, with Jeron Teng, Kib Montalbo, Aljun Melecio and Abu Tratter expected to play the supporting roles.

Adamson counters La Salle’s vaunted lineup with Papi Sarr, the runner-up in the MVP derby, Jerrick Ahanmisi, Rob Mañalang, Sean Manganti and Jonathan Espeleta.

The other semis pairing pitting Ateneo and FEU will be played on Saturday at the same venue with the Blue Eagles (10-4) holding the twice-to-beat edge over the Tamaraws.