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La Salle, NU start title duel

De La Salle University seeks to play the spoiler’s role when it battles National University in Game 1 of their Season 85 University Athletic Association of the Philippines women’s basketball tournament best-of-three finals series today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Game time is at 11 a.m. with the Lady Archers looking to pull the rug from under the Lady Bulldogs, who are out to win their seventh straight title in the country’s most prestigious league.
It took La Salle a long way before making a return to the finals for the first time since 2016.

The No. 2 seed Lady Archers outlasted projected Most Valuable Player awardee Eka Soriano and University of Santo Tomas in a do-or-die match last Sunday, 74-69, to gain the right to face the Lady Bulldogs in the biggest stage of the season.

But the Lady Bulldogs are not invincible in the eyes of the Lady Spikers.

In fact, La Salle sent NU crashing back to earth when it posted a masterful 61-57 overtime victory that snapped its 108-game winning streak that started back in 2014.

La Salle coach Cholo Villanueva knows that the Lady Bulldogs will go all out as they are hungry not just for the crown, but for redemption as well.

“It’s just 40 minutes. They’re itching to get back at us but we’re gonna be right there by their side, competing against them,” Villanueva said.

Villanueva added that the Lady Archers’ elimination round win doesn’t matter anymore as it will all boil down to which team will get the two most important victories in the tournament.

“Those wins are done and over with, whoever gets two wins in this championship series is gonna win the championship. So, it doesn’t matter if you’ve won 108 or 109 games, if we won just 14 games this year. It’s just two wins. So, whoever gets that first two wins, wins the championship,” the La Salle shooting guard said.

Villanueva will rely on Fina Niantcho Tchuido, Bettina Binaohan, Charmine Torres, Lee Sario and Marga Jimenez to duplicate the same result they had against NU in their last meeting.

He compared La Salle’s situation to the same path he and the Green Archers took to capture the 2007 UAAP crown against University of the East, which marched directly to the finals outright after posting a 14-0 sweep.

“I remember when I was playing in my last year in the UAAP. It was the same thing,” Villanueva said.

“We were playing Ateneo for five games including for that No. 2 spot we played for whoever is gonna be the twice-to-beat, then we won that game. And then we played against Ateneo, and then going into those different wars, different battles, it gave us maturity.”

“Now, before we were up against a juggernaut team, UE was 14-0. And then, we had a chance that first game, to get that first game, and then eventually, won it all the way.”

“So, there’s nothing impossible in the UAAP. That’s why it’s very exciting. So, we’re just here, we’re gonna be celebrating, and then we’ll prepare for that series against NU, and hopefully really get it all the way.”

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