After blowing a comfortable lead, the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons relied on team defense to escape with an 89-88 victory over the National University Bulldogs yesterday at the Araneta Coliseum.
It took the combined efforts of Akhuetie Bright and the Gomez de Liano brothers, Juan and Javi, to stop the Bulldogs from making a final shot at the buzzer.
And their presence at the perimeter in the dying seconds allowed UP to pull off their third triumph in six games in the 81st University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball tournament.
The Fighting Maroons, with Bright top scoring with a career-high 21 points and 20 rebounds, got into trouble after Bright knocked in two charities in the remaining 1:03, and put UP in front, 89-83.
“It’s about learning and losing. I had a bad feeling every time we end a quarter. It’s not just the first or the fourth. It’s a culmination of what happened in the past. And the important aspect is that we put this game behind, because we have a coming game on Wednesday, and we will all learn how to finish games,” said Maroons coach Bo Perasol as UP claimed their second consecutive win.
Perasol recalled past games of the Fighting Maroons, when they got a big lead, only to finish badly. Memories of those painful losses were brought forward in their game with NU.
Sean Ildefonso, who unloaded 20 points, kept the Bulldogs within range with his triple, 86-89, with 23.1 seconds to go.
UP should have pulled away, but Jun Manzo’s charities with 18.1 ticks were off.
And so were Javi Gomez de Liano’s two free throw attempts in the final 11 seconds, some four seconds after Ildefonso canned a jumper that put NU within a point.
“We could have won by a bigger margin. But then, we gave up so much chances and free throws. We could have done much better,” said Javi.
Bulldog cager John Vincent Gallego had a chance to go for a drive as time was winding down. But Bright and the Gomez de Liano were in front him, prompting him to pass the ball to Ildefonso, whose three-point attempt came too late.
The younger Juan made 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds, while the Javi eked out 19 points and a career-high eight rebounds, four assists and a steal for the Maroons, who moved to a share of third spot with the La Salle Green Archers.
The Green Archers, earlier took a 51-77 loss from the defending champion Ateneo Blue Eagles, who climbed to second at 5-1.
It was Manzo and the Gomez de Liano brothers who led an 18-7 run at the start of the third period which handed the Maroons an 18-point edge, 65-47.
– Akhuetie 21, Gomez de Liano Ju 20, Gomez de Liano Ja 19, Desiderio 14, Manzo 8, Dario 6, Prado 1, Jaboneta 0, Murrell 0, Gozum 0, Lim 0.
– Ildefonso D 20, Sinclair 13, Gallego 13, Ildefonso S 12, Gaye 11, Clemente 9, RIke 4, Diputado 3, Morido 2, Yu 1, Joson 0, Aquino 0, Malonzo 0, Tibayan 0, Galinato 0
: 26-20, 47-40, 70-62, 89-88.