The University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons and the Adamson Falcons fought off separate foes, and claimed key victories yesterday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The wins over the National University and the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers kept UP within striking distance of the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the 82nd University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball tournament.
The UP Fighting Maroons, banking on lessons learned from previous games, had another close encounter, and came out with flying colors in holding off National University, 80-79.
This earned the Fighting Maroons their third win in four games, and they moved to second spot, behind the defending champion Ateneo Blue Eagles (4-0).
It’s been a heartbreaking campaign for the Bulldogs, who have lost four consecutive close games to go 0-4. They lost on a buzzer-beater to the Falcons. Lost in overtime to the Growling Tigers. Lost by a point to the Green Archers. And now this one-point loss to UP.
Kobe Paras scored 25 points for the Fighting Maroons, who caught up to the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers in the standings.
The Adamson Falcons, getting big plays from Fil-American Val Chauca in the last two minutes, outplayed the Growling Tigers, 78-71, to gain a share of third at 3-2 with UST.
After squandering a 14-point advantage in the last 2:13, the Fighting Maroons watched as they and the Bulldogs blew a couple of scoring chances which could have decided the game in NU’s favor
NU’s first chance to beat UP came after Dave Ildefonso who knocked in a trey with 11.6 ticks left, to put the Bulldogs within one point.
UP could have extended its lead but David Murrell missed his charities, and this gave NU an opportunity.
But Bulldog cager John Lloyd Clemente’s 15-foot jumper fell short of its target as the buzzer sounded.
“We’ve got three close games already. I think if we are smart enough, we’ re wise enough, we have to learn how to close it out. The fact of that is I know we can. There were just lapses but we’re going to learn from that,” said coach Bo Perasol.
Kobe Paras paced UP with 25 points, six rebounds, and two assists, while Bright Akhuetie hit another double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Javi Gomez de Liano scored 17 points on a 5-of-7 shooting from the three-point arc.
Ildefonso also made 25 points for the Bulldogs, who are winless after four games.
The Falcons, led by Jerrick Ahanmisi with 24 points, enjoyed a nine-point, 71-62, edge in the last 3:07 when a trey from Jeron Lastimosa touched off a 9-0 blast.
Two freebies, a trip to the line and a split in the final minute saw the Falcons moving ahead of the UST, 72-71.
Then, the Falcons moved out of range following a turnover and a conversion from Ahanmisi, 74-71.
“We needed that win after what happened to us in the last game. As seen in the body language of the players, they have stopped sulking. And we got a lift from Val with that win,” said Falcons coach Franz Pumaren.
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