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UP determined to sweep La Salle

UP has yet to close a finals series in two games after its last two title bouts went the full distance.

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF UAAP ONE more win and rookie Francis Lopez and the rest of the UP Fighting Maroons will be celebrating their return to the UAAP throne.

Drawing first blood in a finals series seemed easy for University of the Philippines, proven by its previous two runs in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines men’s basketball championship.

Now comes the hard part: Closing out the Season 86 best-of-three series in Game 2.

The Fighting Maroons brace for De La Salle University’s desperate charge in the all-important second game Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum as they try to avoid a precarious rubber match.

UP has yet to close a finals series via sweep after its last two title bouts went the full distance.

Although the Fighting Maroons turned the series opener last Wednesday into a yawner with a 97-67 blowout win at the Mall of Asia Arena, there is no guarantee that Game 2 would be another easy picking.

Head coach Goldwin Monteverde knows this too well based on experience.

UP won Game 1 of its previous back-to-back finals series against Ateneo de Manila University before coming up short in the second meeting.

The Fighting Maroons eventually won in the decider in Season 84. They weren’t as lucky the following season.

Monteverde doesn’t want to be in the same situation for a third time.

“We know that the finals is not just one game, it’s a series. We have to work on what needs to be done,” the mentor said.

UP played great defensively in the series opener, taking the Green Archers particularly season Most Valuable Player Kevin Quiambao out of their system early while finding its range on offense on its way to recording the most lopsided championship Game 1 in the Final Four era.

Still, Monteverde believes there are flaws that the Fighting Maroons need to address to finish off La Salle on its first of two tries.

“I guess, we just have to concentrate on the present. As I said a while ago, we’ll gonna work on what needs to be worked on,” he said.

Even first-time finalists Francis Lopez and Aldous Torculas, who stepped up in Game 1 to back veterans Harold Alarcon, Gerry Abadiano, JD Cagulangan and Season 85 MVP Malick Diouf, know that their job is far from over.

“Our mission is to get two wins. Now, we got the first win and we got one more win we need,” Lopez, who had 15 points and 11 rebounds in Game 1, said.

Lopez is set to receive the Rookie of the Year award before the Game 2 tipoff.

Torculas, for his part, knows that UP now has a virtual twice-to-beat advantage but counting La Salle out will be a huge mistake.

“We remind ourselves that this is not yet over. Good thing we hold an advantage but we still have to double our efforts in the next game to win the championship,” he said.

Game 3, if needed, is on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

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