LA SALLE hopes to put an end to its previous heartbreaks against Far Eastern University in the elimination round as they clash today with the remaining Final Four berth on the line in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Green Archers will enter the 3:30 p.m. match as underdogs, having lost their last two contests after coming so close in nabbing a semifinal spot.
Staring at a possible early vacation, the Tamaraws won three straight to save their season where they were supposed to be one of the favorites for the crown.
The winner will arrange a semis date with defending champion and twice-to-beat Ateneo at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday at the Big Dome.
One of the league’s biggest rivalries, FEU has La Salle’s number in the games that mattered most.
In one final elimination round contest in 2015, the Tamaraws, who were playing with nothing at stake as they were assured of a semis bonus, still beat the Archers, 71-68, ousting them in the Final Four race which turned out to be the last time that the Taft-based squad failed to get past the elims.
The year before that, FEU dethroned La Salle courtesy of Mac Belo’s famous buzzer-beating three-point shot in a 67-64 victory in the Final Four decider.
The Tamaraws and the Archers split their elimination round head-to-head this season.
Actually, FEU and La Salle tied with University of the Philippines at 8-6, but the Fighting Maroons made it safely in the semifinals by virtue of a superior quotient over the Tamaraws and the Archers.
UP, which is making its first Final Four appearance since 1997, will play No. 2 Adamson at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Coach Olsen Racela knows that FEU will face a desperate La Salle side trying to make amends after back-to-back defeats.
“It’s going to be a tough matchup since Taane Samuel is back in their lineup giving them a wide body. But Prince Orizu is back as well for us, so that should help us match up with them. They have a lot of weapons and we have to come in ready for the game,” said Racela.
But since Samuel returned after missing a huge chunk of the season due to a foot injury, the Archers bowed to the Blue Eagles and the Fighting Maroons.
“We need to integrate Taane and use it to our advantage, not to our disadvantage. Once he’s playing, he should be stronger. The four guys around him need to figure out also what are the adjustments. Taane is unlimited. He can do a lot of things but the one thing that we need to figure out is what’s the best he can do for our team,” said La Salle coach Louie Gonzalez.
The Archers though still have a formidable frontline in Justine Baltazar, Santi Santillan and Brandon Bates.
Arvin Tolentino, one of the five graduating Tamaraws players, hopes to shine anew in this no-tomorrow clash.