La Salle used a balanced effort to pull away late from National University, 84-77, and book the third UAAP Season 81 Final Four ticket on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Five players, led by Santi Santillan’s 18 points, scored in double-figures for the Green Archers, who improved to 8-4 and gained a two-game separation from FEU.
DLSU looked poised to cruise after a Santillan tip-in gave them a 75-68 lead with 4:15 remaining, but six straight points from Dave Ildefonso trimmed the lead to just one and kept the Bulldogs alive.
A 9-1 finishing counter by the Archers, capped off by a Justine Baltazar dagger from the mid-range, put the game out of reach for good.
Andrei Caracut and Aljun Melecio added 13 markers apiece, Baltazar tallied an 11-point, 11-rebound double-double and Joaquin Manuel scored 10.
Dave Ildefonso was brilliant once more in a losing effort, scoring 18 of his 20 points in the second half. John Lloyd Clemente put up 19, but only tallied two after exploding for 17 points in the first two quarters.
The Bulldogs are now formally eliminated from semifinals contention, but will have two games remaining to salvage a disappointing season.
La Salle, on the other hand, are now riding a three-game winning streak and will have all the momentum they can get for their next matchup against Ateneo.
DLSU (84) – Santillan 18, Caracut 13, Melecio 13, Baltazar 11, Manuel 10, Dyke 6, Go 6, Bates 4, Serrano 3, Corteza 0.
NU (77) – Ildefonso Dave 20, Clemente 19, Gallego 7, Yu 7, Ildefonso Shaun 5, Gaye 4, Joson 4, Rike 4, Sinclair 3, Malonzo 2, Diputado 2. Galinato 0, Aquino 0, Morido 0, Salim 0.