Nail-biter

November 24, 2018

ADAMSON was successful in pushing soon-to-be named MVP Bright Akhuetie out of his comfort zone.

Until the final 3.7 seconds.

Struggling all-afternoon long, Akhuetie redeemed himself by scoring the biggest basket of the game as University of the Philippines dragged the twice-to-beat Falcons to a decider with a thrilling 73-71 win  in the UAAP men's basketball Final Four before 14,657 fans at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Juan Gomez de Liaño made a well-executed inbound pass to Akhuetie, who eluded Simon Camacho and nailed the winning lay-up in the final 2.6 seconds that sent the boisterous Fighting Maroons faithful into frenzy in an instant classic of a ballgame.

UP and Adamson clash for one final time on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, with the winner taking on the other Final Four winner between defending champion Ateneo and Far Eastern University.

The twice-to-beat Blue Eagles and the Tamaraws cross paths at 3:30 p.m. today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Making their first semifinals appearance since 1997, the Maroons finally pull through against the Falcons in their third meeting this season.

“Winning against Adamson is not easy. We have things that we need to adjust when we go back to the drawing board,” said coach Bo Perasol after UP won its fourth consecutive match dating back from the eliminations.

“My guys just made the plays when it mattered. I mean everybody just contributed. We were just blessed that we got out victorious tonight."

The Maroons were poised to pull away after taking a 60-50 advantage after Paul Desiderio drilled in a lay-up at the 7:33 mark when the Falcons made a 15-3 run capped by a Camacho undergoal stab for a 65-63 lead.

Desiderio then hit a jumper to force a 65-65 deadlock when Sean Manganti, the thorn of UP's side in the elimination round, was at it again, nailing back-to-back baskets to give Adamson a four-point cushion with 2:18 to go.

The win put the Maroons closer in making it to the title round for the first time since winning it all way back in 1986. It was also UP's first Final Four win since 1997, when it also sent their series to FEU to a deciding game.

The loss kept the Falcons winless in Final Four games, going 0-6 since 2006, including three straight since coach Franz Pumaren took over three years ago.

Juan Gomez de Liaño and Desiderio each scored 19 points to lead the Maroons.

Papi Sarr led Adamson with 23 points and nine rebounds.

The scores:

UP (73) --Desiderio 19, Gomez de Liaño Ju. 9, Manzo 9, Gomez de Liaño Ja. 9, Akhuetie 6, Prado 4, Dario 3, Jaboneta 2, Vito 2, Murrell 0, Gozum 0, Lim 0, Tungcab 0.

AdU (71)-- Sarr 23, Manganti 15, Ahanmisi 9, Camacho 8, Lastimosa 7, Espeleta 5, Magbuhos V. 4, Pingoy 0, Mojica 0, Catapusan 0, Bernardo 0.

Quarterscores: 17-16, 28-29, 54-43, 73-71