Sports

UAAP: Kevin Quiambao steps up to boost La Salle’s Final Four bid

La Salle forward Kevin Quiambao dunks the ball during a game against NU in the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament at Mall of Asia Arena. UAAP PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines-La Salle had nothing much to show in its bumpy campaign prior to the 12-day Fiba break until it eked out two hard-earned wins in a row to stay in UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament Final Four contention.

With their backs against the wall, the Green Archers leaned on Gilas Pilipinas player Kevin Quiambao, who stepped up to help his team chalk up a couple of crucial victories.

The Archers gained payback against their first-round tormentors University of the Philippines and Adamson with the versatile Quiambao putting up solid numbers in their two escape acts to stay alive and kicking in the thick of what has been a wild semis race at 5-6 – tied with Adamson for the No. 4 spot entering the homestretch.

Against defending champion UP on Sunday, Quiambao showed the way with a near double-double performance of 18 points and nine rebounds as the Green Archers pulled off a slim 82-80 win for sweet revenge after a 72-69 loss in the first round.

The 6-foot-8 forward scored 13 of his points in the fourth quarter including the game-sealing free throws to cap off La Salle’s biggest win this season thus far at the expense of the red-hot and undisputed No. 1 UP.

Quiambao, 21, also finished with eight points on a decent 4-of-7 clip along with four rebounds and a block in La Salle’s pulsating 81-78 win over Adamson after CJ Austria’s buzzer-beating triple to snap a four-game losing skid and atone for its 86-84 loss in their first encounter.

His remarkable showing for the Archers earned him the Collegiate Press Corps UAAP Player of the Week presented by the Philippine Sports Commission for the period Nov. 17-20.

“’Yung first half ko, two points lang. Kumbaga bumalik ‘yung memory na first game na broken jitters nga. Sabi ko sa sarili ko, hindi pwedeng mangyari ulit ‘yun. Nag-step up lang ako kahit lamang sila nung third quarter,” said Quimbao, fresh off national team duty in the fifth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers in the Middle East.

Quiambao edged fellow Green Archer Austria, UP’s James Spencer and National University’s John Lloyd Clemente for the weekly honor being deliberated upon by the print and online media covering the collegiate beat.

La Salle strengthened its Final Four bid with a 63-58 victory over NU on Wednesday to improve to 6-6 tied with Adamson in the fourth place, only needing to win against also-ran teams University of the East and University of Santo Tomas in their last elimination games to secure a semis berth.

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