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Archers, Blue Eagles rekindle rivalry in crucial clash with playoff implications

MANILA, Philippines – As if their fabled rivalry is not already enough, Ateneo and La Salle turn it up a notch when they battle in a big-time duel with deciding playoff implications at stake in the tail end of the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball tournament Saturday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The sizzling Green Archers (10-3) are on seven-game win run, and after a rare Final Four miss last season, eye to spice their semis return with a twice-to-beat bonus. Meanwhile, the Blue Eagles, the reigning champions, will try to seize the last semis ticket.

Which team owns what prize would be determined in the 6 p.m. duel to serve as main event of the penultimate elimination round playdate, which also features the 4 p.m. battle between already-ran teams Far Eastern University (3-10) and University Santo Tomas (1-12).

Tomorrow, University of the Philippines with an inside track to the top at 11-2 try to seal their place against the tailgating National University (10-3) at 4 p.m. as Adamson (6-7) attempt to catch Ateneo for the last Final Four ticket against University of the East (3-10) at 2 p.m.

But the bigger battle for now is between the hoopers from Katipunan and Taft.

Simply put, a win by La Salle would assure itself a Top-Two finish and win-once bonus, while a loss would complicate things with a possible tie with UP and NU. There’s also the added fire of exacting revenge against its fierce rival after a 77-72 loss in the first round — their last defeat so far.

“Saturday’s (game) is gonna be a different specie, a different situation. Because of seven straight wins, it shouldn’t define us as a team. The reason we’re successful is we play together as a team, shared struggles when we were losing games, and now, shared victories,” said coach Topex Robinson.

“We try to take out that revenge vocabulary in our system and we just want to be the better team come Saturday. Whoever the team is we’re gonna play, it just so happened to be Ateneo. It just so happened they’re the last team that we’re gonna play and the team that beat us in the first round.”

For Ateneo, the task is also clear: win and complete the Final Four. Otherwise, it may still figure in a knockout duel