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The University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons earned a twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four after they turned back the University of the East Red Warriors, 81-68, in the UAAP Season 84 men's basketball tournament on Tuesday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
UP improved their record to 10-2 to keep a solid hold of the second spot in the standings behind the undefeated Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles.
UP zoomed to an 18-8 first quarter lead, before even stretching the gap to 18 at the half, 44-26. However, the Red Warriors slashed the deficit down to nine at the 8:00 mark of the fourth period, 52-61.
UP, though, showed its composure down the stretch with a 12-4 answer capped off by an exciting Ricci Rivero's alley-oop slam off a JD Cagulangan dish, for a 17-point lead, 73-56, with 4:20 to go.
"Working pa rin kami as a team — how to get 'yung rhythm namin as a team, how to execute as a team which nakikita ko we've been doing for the whole game kanina," said Fighting Maroons head coach Goldwin Monteverde.
Fighting Maroon Zavier Lucero ended up with 20 points, 14 rebounds, three blocks, and three assists.
Rivero chipped in 17 points and four rebounds, while CJ Cansino had eight points, six rebounds, and five assists.
Jojo Antiporda delivered 15 points while Escamis flirted with a triple-double with nine points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists as the Red Warriors fell to 0-12.
UE will try to win on Thursday against National University at 10 am. UP will close the day against University of Santo Tomas at 7 pm. (JNP)