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UP weathers late La Salle storm to clinch Final 4 spot

Ricci Rivero skies high for the slam. UAAP Season 84 Media Team
By Ivan Saldajeno

PASAY--The University of the Philippines clinched its third straight UAAP men's basketball Final 4 appearance on Saturday night after repulsing La Salle, 72-69, at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Fighting Maroons, however, needed to withstand one final push from the Green Archers to finally seal the semifinal seat two nights after the Adamson Soaring Falcons derailed them in their first attempt.

Up by as much as 16 points late in the second quarter, UP was holding to a 71-59 lead with 1:52 remaining in the fourth quarter.

But La Salle, through its patented "Pumaren Press", went on a 10-0 run that trimmed the lead down to just two, 71-69, with 10.8 seconds left.

Ricci Rivero kept the game too close to call as he only made a split from the free-throw line, giving La Salle a chance to force overtime with 8.6 seconds to play.

Mark Nonoy found himself wide open as the inbound pass recipient, but the lefty shooter's left corner three only bounced at the top of the backboard and Malick Diouf grabbed the game-saving rebound for UP.

Carl Tamayo led UP, now at 9-2, with a career-high 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting, 11 rebounds, one assist, one block, and one steal.

Diouf added 15 points, 18 rebounds, and one assist.

Balti Baltazar and Schonny Winston each tallied 16 points with the former grabbing 12 rebounds for the double-double for La Salle, which fell to 7-4.

With La Salle's loss, Ateneo, which blasted National University earlier Saturday, clinched at least a twice-to-beat advantage in the Final 4.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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