The University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons took a decisive step toward the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 86 Men’s Basketball Championship with a stunning 97-67 victory over the De La Salle University Green Archers, in the first game of the best-of-three finals series.

This win breaks La Salle’s nine-game winning streak.

Playing in front of a packed Mall of Asia Arena on Wednesday, November 29, the Maroons leveraged their twice-to-beat advantage, setting a dominant tone for the series. From the get-go, UP asserted their might, with quarter scores of 28-24, 25-17, 24-14, and 20-12 in their favor.

Harold Alarcon was the star for UP, pouring in 21 points with an outstanding 66.7% field goal percentage, including sinking one out of three from beyond the arc. Alarcon’s efforts were complemented by Francis Lopez’s 15 points and JD Cagulangan’s 11 points. Lopez and Cagulangan each contributed two three-pointers for their team. Gerry Abadiano’s 10 points off the bench contributed to UP’s offense.

The Maroons’ field goal shooting of 41% fared better than La Salle’s 38.6%.

Despite a strong showing from La Salle’s Michael Phillips who scored 19 points and incumbent Most Valuable Player Kevin Quiambao who added 11, UP’s consistent lead at the end of each quarter reflected their overall control of the game. The UP bench proved vital, providing 41 points, almost double than La Salle’s 22 points.

With this victory, UP moves one step closer to the championship. The next match on Sunday, December 3 is do-or-die for La Salle to even the series and deny UP the title in this best-of-three UAAP finals showdown.

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