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Mark Belmonte breaks out as UP overwhelms La Salle for Filoil crown


University of the Philippines copped its first-ever Filoil Ecooil Preseason Cup title by overpowering the previously unbeaten De La Salle University in the final, winning 87-76 on Wednesday in San Juan.

The Fighting Maroons dominated the premier preseason tournament, sponsored by Filoil, EcoOil, Hanes, Akari, Reyes BBQ, BDO, Kalos Sportswear, and Molten.

And it was all thanks to a breakout performance from the unheralded Mark Belmonte. Belmonte, a 6-foot-6 forward, scored 18 points and grabbed five rebounds.

Belmonte made a significant impact during a crucial 23-4 run that broke a 22-all tie late in the first quarter. That gave UP a commanding 45-26 lead over DLSU at the 6:25 mark of the second period.

He contributed 12 points during that run, outplaying the Phillips brothers, Mike and Ben.

“I’ve always seen yung potential niya. He had his struggles din, pero yung character we have sa team na he never stopped, yun yung ayaw kong mawala sa kanya. Very happy ako kay Mark, especially ngayon,” said head coach Goldwin Monteverde about Belmonte.

UP maintained their lead throughout the game, with DLSU only coming closest at 73-82 with 4:05 remaining. However, UP’s CJ Cansino made three free throws to extend their lead to 85-73 in the final three minutes.

Cansino finished with 10 points, five rebounds, and two assists. Meanwhile, Francis Lopez (16 points on 10 shots) and Malick Diouf (10 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks, two steals) also contributed significantly to help UP avenge their 83-90 loss to DLSU in the group phase.

UP was the only team to defeat DLSU in the 2023 edition of the tournament.

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“We have a lot of respect for La Salle, they’re a really strong team. Ang maganda on our part, yung team really prepared for this, and thankfully, it showed,” said Monteverde.

In addition to winning the historic championship, UP also had two players named to the Mythical Team. Tournament Most Valuable Player Harold Alarcon and Diouf were joined by DLSU’s Kevin Quiambao, Evan Nelle, and University of Perpetual Help’s Jun Roque.

UP now looks ahead to training camps in Serbia and Korea, as well as other preseason tournaments.

On the other hand, the Green Archers settled for the silver medal after losing their last and most important game out of their 12 assignments. Evan Nelle led the way for DLSU with 19 points, five assists, and four rebounds, while Mark Nonoy contributed 13 points and three steals.

DLSU will regroup and prepare for the championship round of the 2023 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup against San Beda University.

Meanwhile, National University salvaged a podium finish with an 85-77 win over University of Perpetual Help in the battle for third.

Mapua’s Khem Sabsalon, on the other hand, was crowned as the new Hanes 1-on-1 King of the Hardcourt, edging Emilio Aguinaldo College’s Ruzzel Dominguez for a thrilling 7-5 victory.


The Scores:

Final:
UP 87 – Belmonte 18, Lopez 16, Cagulangan 10, Diouf 10, Cansino 10, Alarcon 9, Abadiano 4, Briones 4, Alter 2, Torculas 2, Gagate 2, Felicilda 0, Torres 0
La Salle 76 – Nelle 19, Nonoy 13, Policarpio 8, Quiambao 7, M Phillips 7, Austria 7, Gollena 7, Abadam 4, Nwankwo 2, David 2, Escandor 0, Manuel 0, B Phillips 0
Quarterscores: 30-22, 54-45, 75-57, 87-76

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Battle For Third:
NU 85 – Yu 16, Manansala 14, John 12, Enriquez 10, Lim 9, Padrones 9, Diassana 8, Casinillo 3, Figueroa 2, Gulapa 2, Palacielo 0, Parks 0, Galinato 0
Perpetual 77 – Razon 12, Ferreras 12, Abis 11, Roque 11, Pagaran 11, Nitura 10, Barcuma 3, Ramirez 3, Nunez 2, Orgo 2, Boral 0, Cuevas 0, Sevilla 0
Quarterscores: 21-27, 48-41, 73-57, 85-77

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