UNIVERSITY of the Philippines (UP) and De La Salle University (DLSU) collide one more time, locking horns in a win-or-go-home semifinal duel to dispute the last finals ticket and the right to challenge reigning champion Ateneo in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 84 at the Mall of Asia Arena.

With only a one-day break since their first salvo, the Fighting Maroons and the Green Archers marched into the pit anew at 6 p.m. with the survivor advancing to the best-of-three championship against the Blue Eagles starting on Sunday.

The three-time defending titlist Ateneo, despite failing to complete a 14-0 sweep and clinch an outright finals berth, still became the first team into the finale after dispatching No. 4 Far Eastern University (FEU) with an 85-72 win on Wednesday.

And whether it’s No. 2 UP or No. 3 La Salle earning a shot at the UAAP king remains uncertain with both teams posing equal chances in the do-or-die mano-a-mano.

Momentum is on the third-seeded La Salle’s side after forcing a rubber match with a close 83-80 win in Game 1, but UP is keen on getting the job done with only one strike thanks to its twice-to-beat edge as the No. 2 team in the elimination round.

“There’s still one more game. It’s not over till it’s over so we have to be ready for UP’s comeback,” said mentor Derrick Pumaren as La Salle banked on a big lead before fending off UP’s late game storm to stay in finals contention.

“We just have to make use of that advantage and momentum. We expect UP to come back and play a lot better, but it’s our job to be able to counter that,” he added.

La Salle bowed to UP twice in the elims, 61-59 and 72-69, but came out an entirely different squad in the Final Four by erecting a 22-point lead that proved to be the deciding point in the big win.

The Fighting Maroons actually managed to rise from that huge hole in the waning seconds before running out of time much to the confidence of coach Goldwin Monteverde to carry it over and take care of business this time around. — John Bryan Ulanday