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Fighting Maroons return to Final Four in sweep of Red Warriors

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Together with the Ateneo Blue Eagles, the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons swept the University of the East Red Warriors to return to the UAAP Men’s Badminton Final Four Saturday afternoon at the Rizal Memorial Badminton Hall.

Miggy Leonardo opened the day’s festivities for the Diliman shuttlers against UE’s AJ Manlalangit. Leonardo was able to gain an early 11-4 lead entering the first interval. However, Manlalangit stormed right back with an 8-1 blast to tie the game at 12-all, and even gain a 16-14. Leonardo got the breaks for the latter part of the set to win 21-17. The second inning, though, was a different story as Leonardo romped his opponent 21-5 to win the first game for UP.

Jojo Malelang faced off against the quick King Arthur Epiritu. Espiritu’s speed was countered by Malelang’s mastery of the court in the first set. After an early 6-1 lead, Malelang was able to gain an 18-14 lead en route to a 21-17 first set win. Espiritu was able to match Malelang point-for-point that led to a 16-all deadlock. After gaining an 18-16 lead, the Fighting Maroon was able to tie the game at 19-all. The two then exchanged points up until the 22nd point. Malelang, though, was able to capitilize on his fatigued opponent to win the match, 24-22.

CK Clemente and Joaquin Deato was able to escape AJ Malalang and John Kenneth Cruz to secure the win but needed three sets to do so. Clemente and Deato were able to capitalize on a 12-7 lead. Even when the UE duo tied the game at 14-all, the Fighting Maroons did not waver to eventually win the first set 21-19. Just like in the opening set of this match, Clemente and Deato were able to gain an early 11-5 lead by the interval. Malalang and Cruz though did not falter this time as they were able to extend the match to a third set, 21-19. In the final set though, fatigue became the problem for the Red Warriors. The UP duo took advantage of this as they took the match 21-13 to gain the coveted Final Four berth.

In the final two matches, Vinci Manuel and Betong Pineda outclassed Espiritu and Clarence Camacho, 21-8, 21-18. Jon Masongsong put the finishing touches on UE with decisive sweep of AJ David, 21-12, 21-11.

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