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UP to end long trek to semis

Joel Orellana

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Games Today:
(Araneta Coliseum)
2 p.m. — Adamson vs UE
4 p.m. — UST vs UP

niversity of the Philippines (UP) tries to move closer to its goal of advancing to the next round after two decades of absence as it faces University of Santo Tomas (UST) in the main game of Season 81 University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball tournament on Saturday at the Araneta Coliseum.

The Fighting Maroons meet the Growling Tigers at 4 p.m., hoping to break a 6-6 tie with Far Eastern University (FEU) at fourth spot.

In the opener, Adamson University (9-3) is favored to prevail over the 1-11 University of the East (UE) at 2 p.m., with the Soaring Falcons hoping to tighten their grip of the No. 2 spot and inch closer for the twice-to-beat incentive in the Final Four round.

UP needs to win its last two assignments to secure at least a playoff for the No. 4 position in the Final Four, which it last reached in 1997.

“I told them, we trained for a year not really for the first few games of the elimination but for those games, which are going to count,” said Fighting Maroons head coach Bo Perasol, whose team is coming off an 82-71 win over National University.

“We have put ourselves in this situation. We have to be ready for this,” he added.

At 5-7, the Growling Tigers are still in play for a playoff for the No. 4 spot but their fate is no longer in their hands as they need to sweep their last two games and hope that UP and FEU won’t reach eight wins.

But UST coach Aldin Ayo said the team is no longer looking at the standings and he’s more concerned of the development of his young squad.

“Honestly, we thought about it (Final Four) but I will be consistent about this. We’re not much concerned with the spot or if we can make it or not. This is a long process but we want to squeeze everything we can achieve here for the next season,” said Ayo.

“If it (semis) happens, it’s just a bonus. If not, we’re just be grateful with what we’ve learned. But for sure, we’re going to compete and do our best,” he added.

Perasol knows that the Growling Tigers remain a big threat despite their current standing and expect them to play with less pressure.

“We have to prepare really for UST. That’s a very dangerous team. We have to be at our best when we go up against them,” said Perasol, who will also try to avenge their 72-86 loss to the Espana-based squad in the first round.

Meanwhile, the Soaring Falcons eye a win to secure a playoff for the No. 2 spot against the Red Warriors, who have only a victory to show in 12 games.

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