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UAAP: Kevin Quiambao wipes memory of poor debut by making UP pay this time

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La Salle’s young star Kevin Quiambao. Photo by Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines — Kevin Quiambao refused to have another bad game against the defending champion University of the Philippines, stepping up when it mattered most for La Salle to earn a much-needed 82-80 victory to boost their Final Four chances in the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament.

The La Salle rookie had a lethargic start being held to just two points in the first half on Sunday evening before an ecstatic 13,092 crowd at Mall of Asia Arena.

It reminded Quiambao of his jittery seniors’ debut when he missed his first 10 shots and just finished with five points in their 72-69 loss to UP last October 1.

“Bumalik ‘yung memory ng first game na parang rookie jitters nga. Sabi ko sa sarili ko, hindi pwedeng mangyari uli ‘yun,” said Quiambao, who finished with 18 points and nine rebounds. 

(A memory of my jittery first game flashed back. And then I told myself, it can’t happen again.)

Determined to bounce back from his underwhelming performance in the first round, the 21-year-old Gilas Pilipinas cadet willed the Green Archers back from a 12-point deficit in the third quarter.

Quiambao delivered 13 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, displaying nerves of steel as he nailed the two crucial free throws with 11.3 seconds to go that sealed their win.

“We know that UP plays well in the third quarter. And even they were leading, we still followed coach’s system and worked as a team. We regrouped in the third and fourth. We’re so blessed to get this win against the defending champion,” Quiambao said in Filipino.

STOPPING CARL

Kevin Quiambao defending Carl Tamayo.

Kevin Quiambao defending Carl Tamayo. Photo by Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.net

La Salle coach Derrick Pumaren admitted that the 6-foot-4 big man was out of sync in the first half but he was pleased with how his young ace just kept playing until finding his groove to dominate in the fourth.

Quiambao also took the responsibility of stopping his former high school teammate-turned-UP star Carl Tamayo.

“Not just offensively, but also defensively. He took the challenge, he knows that Tamayo’s gonna take control of the ball game, and he himself said that ‘I’m gonna take care of him this fourth quarter,’” said Pumaren.

The former Nazareth School standout was happy to bounce back against the Fighting Maroons and lift the Green Archers to an improved 5-6 record tied with the Adamson Falcons at fourth place.

But Quiambao said they can’t celebrate too much as they need to shift their focus on Wednesday against the No.2 National University, learning their lesson from the first round when they beat Ateneo but absorbed strings of defeats.

“We’re so happy to beat the defending champion. But as coach said, the job’s not finished,” said Quiambao in Filipino. “We don’t want to commit the same mistake when we won over Ateneo in the first round but lost our next game. We still have lapses to improve on.”

“I’m happy with what my team showed today. It was a collective effort. But we have to move on for the next game because it’s a tight race in the Final Four,” he added.

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