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DLSU targets Final Four slot against the Bulldogs

MVP frontrunner Shonny Winston return after four games absence — THE PHILIPPINE STAR/ RUSSELL PALMA

Games On Wednesday(Mall of Asia Arena)11 a.m. — UST vs UP1 p.m. — NU vs DLSU4:30 p.m. — ADMU VS UE6:30 p.m. — FEU vs AdU

TWO separate paths — one to the twice-to-beat bonus and another to the Final Four — gets even narrower today when teams jockey for safe positions in the homestretch of the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Reigning champion University of the Philippines (UP), National University (NU) and Ateneo (ADMU) in different matches figure in a tight race to Top 2 as four squads led by streaking De La Salle (DLSU) rumble their way to the semis in the last three games of the eliminations.

Fresh off a crucial loss against De La Salle last weekend, frontrunning UP (10-2) tries to get back on steady track to a No. 1 finish against Santo Tomas (1-10) at 11 a.m. while Ateneo (8-3) shoots for an official Final Four entry at 4:30 p.m. against University of the East (UE) (4-8).

At 6:30 p.m., Adamson University (5-6) and Far Eastern University (4-8) collide as National University (9-3) and De La Salle (5-6) figure in the day’s most pivotal duel in between games at 1 p.m.

The Bulldogs, who sealed their semifinals spot with a pesky 67-57 win over also-ran University of Santo Tomas, are out to boost their playoff bonus bid while the Green Archers attempt to ride on an 82-80 win over UP to maintain a safe spot inside the Final Four picture.

DLSU just last week was on the brink of elimination with a 3-6 card before stringing two clutch wins against Adamson University and UP to stay in hunt for a playoff spot along with three other teams in the packed middle standings.

“We have not achieved anything yet. We’re not there yet. The job is not done. It’s not gonna be a walk in the park. We just gotta do a good job against NU. We just gotta prepare. We gotta brace and stay grounded,” said De La Salle mentor Derrick Pumaren.

NU anticipates a similar tough outing from here on after ending a seven-year Final Four drought.

“We have to be ready against De La Salle. We have to be ready in our last two games of the second round,” said coach Jeff Napa.

De La Salle is hoping to get a lift in the vital match from MVP frontrunner Schonny Winston (calf), who is likely to return after four games as another absence will make him ineligible for the award due to 70-percent threshold of required number of games played. — John Bryan Ulanday

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