DE LA SALLE Green Archers escaped past Adamson University on CJ Austria’s buzzer-beating triple. — UAAP MEDIA

Games On Sunday
(Mall of Asia Arena)
11 a.m. — ADMU VS FEU
1 p.m. — NU vs UST
3 p.m. — AdU vs UE
6:30 p.m. — UP VS DLSU

NATIONAL University (NU) firmed up its grip on second spot and secured at least a playoff for one of the Final Four slots while De La Salle stayed in the thick of the heated race with separate big wins in the return of the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament yesterday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Bulldogs fended off a gritty resistance from University of the East (UE), 70-61, as the Green Archers escaped past Adamson University on CJ Austria’s buzzer-beating triple for an 81-78 win.

PJ Palacielo provided spark in the end game, pouring eight of his 10 markers in the last four minutes to keep UE at bay and propel NU to an 8-3 card, one win away from officially sealing a Final Four ticket.

The rookie big man also added three rebounds and two assists in only eight minutes of play with John Lloyd Clemente (10), John Figueroa (9) and John Galinato (9) firing in needed help for the Bulldogs, who continued to be the surprising major force this season.

The win of NU, which led by as many as 13 points before weathering UE’s uprising to within 55-57, also put a dent in the latter’s own playoff hopes as it slid down to 4-7.

In contrast, De La Salle stayed alive and injected hopes to its Final Four drive by snapping a four-game losing skid to climb to 4-6 – thanks to Austria’s heroics.

Sans injured ace guard and MVP frontrunner Schonny Winston, Mr. Austria stepped up to the plate and finished with a team-high 16 points, two rebounds and two steals including the game-winner.

Siblings Benjamin and Michael Phillips chipped in 14 apiece to backstop Mr. Austria in De La Salle’s big win that catapulted it back to the airtight semifinal contest with Adamson at joint fourth spot.

“It’s a shot from Heaven. It was a shot given to us, finally, coming off a break after losing four straight games. It’s big lift. It’s an important game for us and we needed everything with that shot of CJ,” said De La Salle mentor Derrick Pumaren. — John Bryan Ulanday

The Scores:

First Game

De La SALLE 81 — Austria 16, M. Phillips 14, B. Phillips 14, Nonoy 8, Quiambao 8, Abadam 6, Nwankwo 6, Nelle 5, Estacio 4, Macalalag 0, Cortez 0, Manuel 0.

ADAMSON University 78 — Yerro 18, Flowers 15, Hanapi 10, Jaymalin 10, Douanga 10, Manzano 6, Sabandal 3, Colonia 2, Barasi 2, Fuentebella 2, Torres 0, Barcelona 0, W. Magbuhos 0.

Quarterscores: 23-23, 40-42, 57-62, 81-78.

Second Game

NATIONAL UNIVERSITY 70 — Palacielo 10, Clemente 10, Figeuroa 9, Galinato 9, John 8, Malonzo 7, Enriquez 6, Manansala 5, Baclaan 2, Yu 2, Mahinay 2, Minerva 0, Padrones 0

UNIVERSITY OF THE EAST 61 — Stevens 14, Villegas 13, Payawal 12, Pagsanjan 7, K. Paranada 6, N. Paranada 5, Sawat 4, Tulabut 0, Remogat 0, Antiporda 0, Gilbuena 0

Quarterscores – 16-13, 35-24, 48-39, 70-61