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One last clash for crown

MANILA, Philippines — A first-ever date now needs one last dance.

University of the Philippines and La Salle try to settle their first finals encounter in a winner-take-all Game 3 of the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball finals today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The stage is set at 6 p.m. after the Fighting Maroons and the Green Archers tangoed in the first two games of the quick best-of-three finale with statement victories of their own.

At 12 p.m., dynasty or destiny is the theme of the game as seven-peat champion National U and challenger Santo Tomas, bidding for a first title since 2006, clash for all the marbles in women’s basketball.

The Lady Bulldogs, the undisputed UAAP queens since 2014, escaped with a 72-70 win in Game 2 to force a rubber match after the Growling Tigresses’ historic 76-72 Game 1 win to snap a 20-game, 11-year losing skid against the reigning champions.

But if both games went down to the wire in the women’s kingdom, it’s been a complete opposite in the men’s realm.

A bloodbath it was for Diliman and Taft, taking turns in wreaking havoc against each other in what now promises to be an all-out war for the final act.

“Kapag finals na, syempre from the very start of the game dapat alam mo na what’s at stake and anong klaseng intensity at focus ang haharapin mo. Whatever pressure is involved there, we should take it like men para ma-overcome ‘yun,” said UP coach Goldwin Monteverde.

“It is what it is. Ang importante rito may Game 3 pa so nandoon pa yung tsansa namin. ‘Yun lang, learn from it.”

UP, drawing strength from the tremendous feat of dethroning Ateneo and snapping its sixth straight finals appearance, dealt the first blow on La Salle with an emphatic 97-67 win in Game 1.

That was the most lopsided finals opener victory in the Final Four era.

On cue, La Salle was quick to exact payback by handing UP its biggest loss this season and in the Monteverde era, 82-60.

The Green Archers are aspiring to end a seven-year title drought for a 10th crown while the Fighting Maroons are bidding for their second championship in the last three seasons and third overall.