DE LA Salle Green Archers guard Evan Nelle — THE UAAP

THIRD-seeded La Salle withstood a late uprising by No. 2 and twice-to-beat-armed University of the Philippines (UP), escaping with a narrow 83-80 win to forge a do-or-die Game 2 in the Final Four of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 84 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

The Green Archers led by as many as 22 points but needed one last stand to survive the Fighting Maroons’ comeback to keep their finals hopes alive.

Evan Nelle was on target for the Green Archers, unloading 26 points on crisp 8-of-13 shooting, including five triples, six rebounds, seven assists and three steals. Justine Baltazar manned the paint with 15 markers, 18 boards and two blocks.

Kurt Lojera was also instrumental with 11 points as Michael Phillips, Cyrus Austria and Schonny Winston chipped in seven apiece for La Salle, which will try to get the job done in sudden death tomorrow.

“Well, I think the boys really played hard. They played 40 minutes of solid basketball discipline, which I’ve been asking them to do. It was really a team effort and everybody was on the same page,” said coach Derrick Pumaren as La Salle finally got back at UP after two losses in the eliminations, 61-59 and 72-69.

“We’re happy we won the ballgame, but we only tied the series. There’s still one more game,” he added.

Ranged against a spirited UP side that put a lone defeat in Ateneo’s previously pristine slate last weekend, La Salle did not shy away from the challenge and shocked its counterpart with a hot 24-16 start that swelled to 66-44 midway through the third period.

It was all La Salle, which still held a 79-63 lead in the last three minutes, until UP regained its bearings and uncorked a 15-2 rally highlighted by Gerry Abadiano’s triple to get within 81-78 in the last 12 seconds.

But Nelle came to the rescue once again, draining two of his four charities as UP tried to make it a free throw shooting game, to ice La Salle’s win despite Maodo Diouf’s dunk at the horn for the final count.

Diouf hauled down 18 points, 20 rebounds and three blocks but his frontcourt partner Carl Tamayo struggled for just seven markers in a dismal 2-of-14 outing that dealt a big blow to UP’s chances.

Ricci Rivero (18) and Zavier Lucero (17) also played their part in a losing cause for the Fighting Maroons, who still can make the finals with a win in Game 2. — John Bryan Ulanday

The Scores:

La Salle 83 – Nelle 26, Baltazar 15, Lojera 11, M. Phillips 7, Austria 7, Winston 7, Nwankwo 4, Nonoy 3, Manuel 3, B. Phillips 0.

UP 80 – Diouf 18, Rivero 18, Lucero 17, Tamayo 8, Abadiano 7, Cagulangan 6, Spencer 3, Alarcon 3, Ramos 0, Fortea 0, Webb 0, Lina 0.

Quarterscores: 24-16, 48-37, 66-55, 83-80.