Video by KIM Quilinguing, UP Media and Public Relations Office
The Fighting Maroons snatched a razor-thin victory, 72-71, from the Green Archers, who had led for almost 39 minutes of the 40-minute regulation time on September 25, 2019 at the Mall of Asia Arena. With its fourth straight win, UP raises its scorecard to 5-1. The only team left to battle in the UAAP Season 82 men’s basketball first round games is its finals rival last season, the Ateneo Blue Eagles.
UP’s fourth-quarter game was propelled and brought home by three-pointers from injury-laden point guard Juan Gomez de Liaño early and in the last eight seconds of the quarter. Juan took the cudgels for the team who saw lead scorers Kobe Paras and Bright Akhuetie reduced to 21-percent and 35-percent field goal shooting, respectively.
The Maroons trailed in the first two quarters, 14-18 and 29-36, and began the fourth with a seven-point deficit, 52-59. Successful free throws by Bright, a fast-break shot by Jaydee Tungcab and a three-pointer by Juan, closed the gap at 59-61. Kobe sunk his penalty shots to tie the game, 61-61.
The Archers gallantly fought back, with Andrei Caracut and Aljun Melecio serving a trey each. With barely a minute left in the game, the Archers led by four points, 67-71. Kobe then sank another pair of penalty shots to narrow the gap to two, 69-71. In the last 49 seconds, Bright fouled out of the game, but foul receiver Archer Jamie Malonzo was zero on the line.
With the last quarter of the minute ticking away, Juan stole the ball from a pass by Aljun toward Archer territory, crossed to UP court, and made the quick and decisive trey with seven seconds left in the game. The clutch basket stunned the Archers into wasting away their succeeding possession.
“The biggest shot came from Juan, and he’s not even a hundred percent yet when he took that shot,” Fighting Maroons coach Bo Perasol said post-game. “But once a player is a winner, he’s always a winner, so I didn’t have a doubt in my mind when he was bringing the ball down that he was going for the three-point shot. In fact what I was looking at were his feet.”
“I made the extra sacrifice to play in the last few minutes despite all the injuries I’m going through right now,” Juan said. “I faced injuries for the past five months… So I’m really thankful for my team. Even though I’m struggling, they still had trust in me.”
“Leading my team is like leading a chariot with wild stallions,”the head coach revealed. “A lot has to improve as far as how we’re going to deal with our offense. I’m quite sure that we’re decent as far as our defense is concerned. Despite the fact that we’re missing a lot, we’re still able to hold [our opponent] out.”
On their game on Sunday, September 29, 2018, Coach Bo said: “You’re going up against the defending champions, who have been battering their opponents for double digits. We watched the game earlier,” he added, referring to the Blue Eagles match versus the Red Warriors. “They’re just an excellent team. … but come Sunday time, I’m sure we will be ready for them.”
IN PHOTOS: UP vs DLSU – UAAP Season 82, 1st round