If American football is a game of inches, then perhaps Philippine basketball is a game of diskarte. Basketball is generally a game where snap decisions must be made and the small choices tend to have a hand in the grander scheme of things.

The UP Fighting Maroons are one win away from reaching the summit of UAAP Season 86, and while this series is far from over, a victory like the one they had over the DLSU Green Archers will definitely inspire confidence.

The 30-point win is now the largest margin of victory in the UAAP Finals in the Final Four era, ironically since the Green Archers earned a 72-47 win over the FEU Tamaraws 25 years ago. But don’t let the huge gap distract you from the fact that the little things the Maroons did spelled the difference in the end.

Game 1 was initially a close affair, with both teams taking turns holding a lead until UP held a slim margin through the second quarter. La Salle continued to pose a threat and with reigning MVP Malick Diouf in early foul trouble, the game could have slipped away.

The Maroons initially went with Luis Pablo and Lebron Lopez in the frontcourt, a lineup they’ve run before, but one that would be at a disadvantage size wise. UP also threw in Sean Alter in the mix, but Michael Phillips continued to maneuver his way around the post. That was, however, something the Maroons were willing to live with.

The “smaller” lineup was a quicker and more agile one, something that helped them crash the boards and put more emphasis on their transition game. It worked to their favor, as the likes of Harold Alarcon (who finished with a game-high 21 points) and Gerry Abadiano (10 points) were able to go off to the races and finish despite tough contact.


It allowed them to become more twitchy on defense, and the effort translated into some missed point-blank shots that left points off the board for DLSU. Naturally, UP was also a menace on the boards, and Lopez (15 points and 11 rebounds) was a catalyst in Game 1.

In the end, what was once a 47-41 lead turned into a 53-41 halftime lead that was never really threatened in the second half. 

UP’s approach to sending smaller defenders to presumptive MVP Kevin Quiambao was also another key decision. It also helped that the likes of Alarcon, Abadiano, Terrence Fortea, and Reyland Torres were former teammates of Quiambao and were quite familiar with his game. 

Later on, when Game 1 was out of reach EJ Gollena was on the attack and poured on a few points for the Green Archers. It was a valiant effort and even with the outcome decided, the Maroons quickly adjusted, stymying him just as he committed on the spin moves. The result? Two turnovers that only added salt to La Salle’s wounds.

Credit must be given to both the players, who executed on the court, and the coaches, who properly developed a game plan and made choices on the fly. A rookie like Pablo will also benefit from this kind of experience both now and in succeeding seasons. Talent alone won’t win you games at this point and it was evident that DLSU at times tried to do things individually to no avail.

The Green Archers will definitely look to send the UAAP Finals into a deciding Game 3 and UP cannot count on another atrocious 3-point shooting performance from La Salle. Reviewing the game will definitely bring up some new tactics to deploy and the Maroons should be prepared to adjust to how DLSU changes its approach in Game 2.

The little things the UP Fighting Maroons snowballed into a dominating Game 1 victory that put them closer to their fourth UAAP Men’s Basketball Championship. Game 2 will be a different ball game altogether, but applying the same principles that won the Maroons Game 1 could put this final series to a quick end.