UNIVERSITY of the Philippines lived to fight another day in the most thrilling fashion as it came away with a heart-stopping 73-71 victory to force a knockout match in the UAAP Season 81 semis on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Bo Perasol pulled a rabbit out of his hat in the final play for the Fighting Maroons, as Juan Gomez de Liano found a wide open Bright Akhuetie underneath off the inbounds for the eventual game-winner with 2.6 seconds remaining in the game.
The Falcons had one last shot to win the game but Jonathan Espeleta’s Hail Mary heave was blocked, as half of the 14,657 crowd at the venue erupted in jubilation for their first final four win since 1997.
“I was really praying for wisdom on what play we’re gonna call. That particular play was a quick hitter that we practice most of the time,” said Perasol.
“I reminded them that we do that in practice everyday, it just so happened that we were able to do that here,” he added.
It was a game of runs for both teams, with the Fighting Maroons looking poised to break the game wide open in the third quarter, leading by as many as 13, behind the hot shooting of Paul Desiderio.
But the Fighting Maroons’ nightmare slowly came to fruition as Sean Manganti led a late comeback for the Falcons and gave the fans in Diliman the scare of their lives.
Manganti’s back to back baskets gave the Falcons a 69-65 lead with 2:20 remaining in the game which brought back memories of their last two games in the elimination round where the Falcons stole the game away in the end game.
The Fighting Maroons however had one strong finishing kick in them, as they ended the game with an 8-2 spurt, capped off by the Akhuetie game winner to force a decider on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“I told them that this happened to us before, I told them that we have to go through this, either we win or lose, it’s a matter of learning from this,” Perasol said.
“No matter what happens we’re gonna learn from this so why not win this anyway? And they did it.”
Desiderio scored all of his 19 points which went along eight rebounds and four assists as Gomez de Liano also finished with 19 alongside six boards and two steals.
Akhuetie finished with just six points but had 14 rebounds, two steals and two blocks to anchore the Fighting Maroons’ defense.
Papi Sarr led the way for the Falcons with 23 points and nine rebounds as Manganti finished with 15 points and five rebounds.
Jerrick Ahanmisi struggled a lot as he finished with just nine points on 2-12 shooting.
UP 73 – Desiderio 19, Gomez de Liano Ju 19, Manzo 9, Gomez de Liano Ja 9, Akhuetie 6, Prado 4, Dario 3, Jaboneta 2, Vito 2, Murrell 0, Gozum 0, Lim 0, Tungcab 0
ADAMSON 71 – Sarr 23, Manganti 15, Ahanmisi 9, Camacho 8, Lastimosa 7, Espeleta 5, Magbuhos V 4, Pingoy 0, Mojica 0, Catapusan 0, Bernardo 0
Quarters: 17-16, 28-29, 54-43, 73-71