By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
The University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons handed the De La Salle University (DLSU) Green Archers a demolition exhibition, 97-67, in Game 1 of the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball grand finals last November 29, 2023, held at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
Banking on its UAAP championship experience and deep roster, the Fighting Maroons clamped on DLSU and didn’t give them enough room to breathe during the lopsided victory and dominated its way to the most one-sided grand finals match win in the Final Four era.
It all started with UP’s smothering defense as their schemes to take out Kevin Quiambao and Evan Nelle from their comfort spots changed the complexion of the game.
The game plan was simple for UP. Take Quiambao and Nelle out of the mix and the rest will follow. And yes, head coach Goldwyn Monteverde executed his strategy to perfection.
UP repeated again and again that the thing they need to do to outshine the Green Archers is to solidify their defense. During Game 1 of the finals, the Fighting Maroons forced DLSU to 18 disappointing turnovers which resulted in 24 points.
Aside from their help and perimeter defense, the Fighting Maroons also locked down DLSU’s three-point area and only allowed them to convert two of their 23 total attempts from downtown.
The Green Archers enjoyed a one-point lead with only a minute left in the first frame, 23-24, off a Mark Nonoy breakaway layup but things would go UP’s way in a jiffy after six straight points courtesy of CJ Cansino and Mark Belmonte.
Things then began to click for the Fighting Maroons as their offense helped them blitz to a 12-point lead, 53-41, off a JD Cagulangan buzzer-beater at the end of the first half.
What was expected to be a mano-a-mano grand finals matchup suddenly turned to a lopsided beating as UP ramped up their intensity on both ends of the floor to impose their will in the next 20 minutes.
Harold Alarcon, one of the remaining seniors in the UP roster, flaunted his deep offensive bag as he torched DLSU with an array of scoring moves that helped swell the lead to as much as 20 points.
It was then all UP in the fourth as DLSU’s offense went stagnant and just had no answers to the Fighting Maroons’ hounding defense.
Alarcon was named the Best Player of the Game after dropping 21 big points built from an impressive 8/9 shooting from the field.
LeBron Lopez backstopped Alarcon with a dominant double-double performance of 15 points and 11 rebounds.
The Green Archers will aim to bounce back on December 3, 2023, in the upcoming Game 2 schedule of the UAAP Season 86 grand finals.