THE La Salle-Dasmarinas Patriots are back in the finals.
The school beat the Manuel L. Quezon University Stallions, 79-68, in their stepladder semifinal showdown at the Ugnayang La Salle gymnasium in Cavite to return to the Universities and Colleges Athletic Association (UCAA) men’s basketball tournament finals after a seven-year wait.
Lloyd Pono banged in 20 points, including one of three triples during a pivotal six-minute stretch in the final period that keyed the win for the Patriots in this cagefest supported by Mikasa and Molten Balls.
Pono's trey gave La Salle a 64-60 lead, before two more three-pointers from Jeoffrey Acain and Clifford Castro capped a 10-3 run that allowed the Patriots to open a 74-63 cushion inside the final two minutes.
Acain shot 16 points, while Manuel had 12. K-Boy Torres tallied 10.
Roland Dulalia and Leonard Tamayo topscored with 15 and 14 points, respectively, for the Stallions, who eventually settled for third place.
The Patriots, who lost in the 2005 finals to Emilio Aguinaldo College, begin their best-of-three title series against the Olivarez College Sea Lions on Wednesday, 1 p.m. at the Olivarez College gymnasium in Sucat, Paranaque.
“Nag-kumpiyansa ang mga bata sa opensa nu'ng umpisa. Akala nila, dahil homecourt, ganoon-ganoon lang ang Stallions. Buti na lang, nag-click ang matchup namin sa kanila,” said Patriots coach Macky Torres.
Torres, who is on his second year as coach, said this is a big achievement for the team after finishing last the previous season.