The University of the Philippines defeated La Salle 61-59 in the UAAP Season 84 men’s basketball competition on Thursday at Mall of Asia Arena for its fifth straight win. Michael Phillips’ attempt in the final 3.8 seconds failed to force overtime, and the Fighting Maroons’ defense held firm to keep the Green Archers scoreless in the final 2:45. Lucero Zavier led UP’s comeback with 21 points, 13 rebounds, and two steals. The Maroons came back from a 52-45 deficit with less than eight minutes remaining in the contest.

For the Fighting Maroons, Carl Tamayo had nine points and 11 rebounds. While CJ Cansino scored nine points on 2-of-5 shooting from outside the arc, eight rebounds, and one steal. In addition, James Spencer, added 11 points, including three pivotal triples, and four rebounds.

“I felt almost throughout the game, we struggled offensively. But the good thing especially in the fourth quarter is our defense picked up, “Coach Goldwin Monteverde was pleased with his team’s performance despite only shooting 29.5 percent from the field of the basketball arena.

Despite leading scorer Ricci Rivero missing all six of his shots and going scoreless for the first time this season, UP came away with a big win. With this victory, the Fighting Maroons improved to 5-1 overall. And extended their dominance over the Green Archers, having won their prior five meetings.

The Maroons have won five straight games

With Lucero Zavier, the Maroons have won five straight games after a loss on the first day of the season. There was a lot of curiosity about how Lucero Zavier would fare against a Baltazar built by Gilas, but he dismissed it. Even if they didn’t quite complement each other, it’s reasonable to say they earned each other’s respect.

“Chinallenge ko talaga kasi gusto namin manalo e. So yun, wala e, na-shoot e,” Baltazar recalled the play’s

La Salle’s Justine Baltazar had 13 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists. While Evan Nelle had 13 points, three steals, two rebounds, and two assists before fouling out in the fourth quarter. The Green Archers have a 4-2 record thus far this season.

On the next play, Evan Nelle missed a jumper, but La Salle was granted a reprieve thanks to a UP turnover. With 15.1 seconds left, La Salle had possession. And fouls from CJ Cansino, Carl Tamayo, and James Spencer cut the time down to 3.8 ticks. The Green Archers, on the other hand, went blank in their final play, allowing UP to win.

After a rough start in the UAAP and in Philippine basketball, Lucero Zavier is back with the Fighting Maroons. As the expression goes, it is not how one begins, but how one ends.

Both teams will start their campaigns at the SM MOA Arena on Saturday. At 1:00 p.m., La Salle (4-2) will face Adamson University, while UP (5-1) will face Far Eastern University at 7:00 p.m.

The results are as follows:

UP 61 – Rivero 0, Alarcon 0, Abadiano 0, Fortea 3, Cagulangan 5, Diouf 7, Spencer 7, Tamayo 9, Cansino 9, Lucero Zavier 21

La Salle 59 – Austria 0, B. Phillips 0, Cuajao 0, Nwankwo 2, Galman 3, Lojera 3, Winston 7, Phillips 9, Nonoy 9, Baltazar 13, Nelle 13