AFTER 21 long years, University of the Philippines will finally be playing in a Final Four game as it came away with a five-star performance against La Salle 97-81 to clinch a spot in the UAAP Season 81 semis on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Needing a win to book the third spot after the eliminations, the Fighting Maroons weren’t to be denied of their mission as Juan and Javi Gomez de Liano kicked off a blazing UP rally in the second quarter and never looked back.
The brothers combined for 25 points in the first half as they took a 52-29 lead by half and never looked back from there.
It was the first time that the Fighting Maroons will be making the semifinals dating back from the days of Paolo Mendoza and the late Brian Gahol, ending seasons of heartbreak and disappointments for the team.
"I really didn't expect the kind of response my players did to start the game. I just painted to them the picture of us not having any accolades in the last few decades, for all of us who have a chance to do this for the community," said UP head coach Bo Perasol.
"While we are trying to enjoy this, there is still a game to play and that's the Final Four," he added.
Juan Gomez de Liano finished with 27 points alongside four assists and three boards as his brother chipped in 19 points. The two combined to shoot eight three pointers in between them.
Leading MVP frontrunner Brighr Akhuetie also finished with monster numbers or 16 points and 20 boards. They finished the elimination round with an 8-6 record.
Justine Baltazar paced the Green Archers with 22 points as they now await the result of the Adamson - FEU game.
A loss for the Tamaraws will push the Green Archers to the fourth spot while a win would mean they'll have to battle for a playoff spot.
UP 97– Ju. Gomez de Liaño 27, Ja. Gomez de Liaño 19, Akhuetie 16, Desiderio 10, Manzo 6, Jaboneta 5, Dario 5, Tungcab 3, Gozum 2, Lim 2, Prado 2, Murrell 0, Vito 0.
DLSU 81– Baltazar 22, Melecio 19, Caracut 12, Samuel 8, Santillan 6, Montalbo 5, Serrano 5, Bates 2, Manuel 2, Dyke 0.
Quarters: 25-17, 52-29, 75-54, 97-81