PAUL Desiderio nailed a short jumper in the final 6.6 seconds as University of the Philippines overcame Adamson in overtime, 89-87, to make it to the Finals for the first time in 32 years last night in the UAAP men’s basketball Final Four before a season-high 20,909 fans at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Jerom Lastimosa, who drilled in a triple using the glass to force the extra five minutes, failed to replicate what he did in the last 2.6 seconds of regulation by completely misfiring a three-pointer that could have won it for the Falcons.
With a sigh of relief after the Lastimosa miss, the Fighting Maroons celebrated after the buzzer of this classic game, as the Diliman-based squad returned to the title-round for the first time since winning its lone post-war championship in 1986.
“This team will fight, no matter what,” said coach Bo Perasol after UP rallied from a 78-84 hole early in overtime. “These guys refused to give up. We were blessed for this kind of win.”
In the women’s step-ladder semis, Clare Castro had 32 points and 15 rebounds as second-ranked Far Eastern University arranged a title duel with National University with a 68-66 squeaker over No. 4 University of Santo Tomas.
The Maroons, who four years ago have endured a 27-game losing streak, will savor the moment of winning and advancing to the title round that no one would think of.
Up next for UP is a best-of-three championship showdown with defending champion Ateneo in a duel dubbed as “Battle of Katipunan” starting at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“Oh my. A very formidable, tough team. But we will enjoy this win first,” said Perasol of the Blue Eagles, whom he handled for three years before moving to his alma mater in 2016.
Juan Gomez de Liaño paced the Maroons with 30 points and six rebounds, Desiderio had 16 points, 11 rebounds, four steals and two assists while soon-to-be crowned MVP Bright Akhuetie had 13 points and seven boards.
It was Adamson’s third consecutive Final Four exit, as the San Marcelino-based squad is now 0-7 in post-elimination games since 2006.
After a shotclock violation called on the Lady Tamaraws, the Tigresses tried to force an overtime in the final 6.3 seconds, but Tin Capilit’s last-gasp lay-up rimmed out.
Coach Bert Flores, after FEU claimed its first Finals appearance in four years, is so thankful to have Castro back after missing last season’s campaign to compensate its small line-up.
“Suwerte na dumating si Clare, may rebounder kami. Kahit paano nabubuhayan kami,” said Flores, who last won a UAAP championship for his alma mater in 2005, with a powerhouse men’s roster led by Arwind Santos.
The Lady Tamaraws will face a gargantuan task of ending the Lady Bulldogs’ 78-game winning streak in the best-of-three series starting Saturday at the same Pasay venue.
Soon-to-be crowned MVP Grace Irebu had 28 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks for UST, which finished third for the second straight season. The scores:
First Game (Women)
FEU (68) — Castro 32, Quiapo 12, Antiola 9, Mamaril 7, Taguiam 5, Bahuyan 3, Vidal 0, Bastatas 0, Abat 0, Adriano 0, Payadon 0.
UST (66) — Irebu 28, Ferrer 11, Larosa 10, Capilit 9, Portillo 5, Rivera 3, Aujero 0, Tacatac 0, Sangalang 0, Magat 0, Gonzales 0.
Quarterscores: 16-12, 31-30, 53-43, 68-66
Second Game (Men)
UP (89) — Gomez de Liaño Ju. 30, Desiderio 16, Akhuetie 13, Gomez de Liaño Ja. 8, Tungcab 6, Prado 6, Dario 5, Manzo 4, Jaboneta 1, Lim 0, Vito 0.
AdU (87) — Ahanmisi 20, Lastimosa 17, Sarr 16, Camacho 10, Pingoy 7, Manganti 6, Magbuhos V. 6, Espeleta 2, Mojica 2, Bernardo 1.
Quarterscores: 26-16, 51-42, 64-67, 78-78, 89-87