By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter
THE final cast member of the Final Four of University Athletic Association of the Philippine Season 81 will be determined today when the De La Salle Green Archers and Far Eastern University Tamaraws engage in a one-game playoff at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Ended in a three-way logjam for third place at the end of the elimination round with an 8-6 record along with the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons, the Archers and Tamaraws found themselves needing to slug it out for the last spot for having the lower quotient among the three.
La Salle had a grand chance to enter the semifinals complication-free but back-to-back losses to the Ateneo Blue Eagles and UP to end the classification phase prevented them from doing so.
FEU, meanwhile, gave its playoff push a boost with three straight victories in the wind-up, the last one a rout of the Adamson Soaring Falcons, 82-56, on Nov. 18 that assured the Tamaraws of at least a playoff for the last Final Four spot.
Despite missing out on good opportunities to advance previously, the Archers are still not losing hope of eventually catching the playoff bus.
“We’re still not out of it, We just have to care of our business,” said La Salle guard Aljun Melecio following their loss to UP.
For the Tamaraws, having earned another chance to book a place in the semifinals, they said they are bent on making full use of it.
“We’re getting the breaks here in the second round. This is a huge win for us and we have one game to play to make it to the Final Four and we will take full advantage of it,” said FEU coach Olsen Racela following their victory over Adamson.
“Of course, we lament the situation we are in. Had we took care of business early on we would not be here fighting for our playoff lives and maybe in a far better position. But we are now getting the breaks and players are getting back from injuries. We still have an opportunity though and we’re not giving up,” he added.
Mr. Racela went on to say that they expecting a tough match with La Salle and that they have to come in “prepared and ready.”
The do-or-die match between La Salle and FEU is set for 3:30 p.m.
The winner of the contest sets up a semifinal meeting with top-seed Ateneo where it will have a twice-to-win handicap.
Meanwhile, UP’s Juan Gomez De Liano was named player of the week after helping the Maroons end a 21-year Final Four drought.
In their last six games, Gomez De Liano has been steady for 16.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 6.8 assists off the bench, a key part in their push to the semifinals.
The weekly plum, given by media which covers the league, coincided with his selection for the mythical team in UAAP Season 81 along with teammate Bright Akhuetie, who is set to be named most valuable player.
In winning player of the week, Gomez De Liano beat Akhuetie, Ateneo’s Angelo Kouame and Will Navarro, and National University’s Troy Rike.