UP is peaking at the right moment.
The rise of the UP Fighting Maroons continues as they survived a crunch time scare from the Adamson Soaring Falcons, 73-71, to force a sudden death in the semifinals of UAAP Season 81.
A “Sea of Maroons” filled the Mall of Asia Arena and witnessed UP get its second Final Four victory ever courtesy of a game-winner by Season MVP, Bright Akhuetie. His MVP numbers were nowhere to be found as he battled flu, but he showed no signs of stopping until he got the shot that mattered most. Bright ended up with 6 points, 14 rebounds and 2 steals.
Paul Desiderio and Juan Gomez de Liano carried the Fighting Maroons all game-long on offense. Juan GDL looked sharp early as he tallied 14 points in the first half alone. Despite being scoreless at start, Desiderio also brought a big game as he got it going in the third quarter and never looked back. He outsmarted the Adamson defense to finish with 19 points.
The first UAAP Season 81 Final Four matchup lived up to expectations as the game saw 11 lead changes—the last of which happened at the final minute with Desiderio launching a step-back jumper over Jerrom Lastimosa.
Sean Manganti almost proved to be UP’s nightmare once more as he perfected crucial freethrows to tie the game with just seconds left. Unlike before, destiny was on UP’s side this time as a beautifully drawn play featuring a connection between Juan and Bright led the Maroons to give Adamson a dose of their own medicine. This is the first time UP won over their opponents in two years.
Overwhelming is an understatement in describing the support showed by the UP community on Saturday. Both Coach Bo Perasol and Team Captain Paul Desiderio expressed their appreciation to the fans that showered them with support until the final buzzer.
Desiderio expects even more from the team’s fans to troop into the Araneta Coliseum as they face the Falcons in a knockout game on Wednesday.
Desiderio-19, Juan GDL-19, Javi GDL-9, Manzo-9, Akhuetie-6, Prado-4, Dario-3, Jaboneta-2, Vito-2, Gozum-0, Lim-0, Murrell-0, Tungcab-0
Sarr-23, Manganti-15, Ahanmisi-9, Camacho-8, Lastimosa-7, Espeleta-5, Magbuhos-4, Bernardo-0, Catapusan-0, Mojica-0, Pingoy-0