The UP Fighting Maroons prevailed once again over the DLSU Green Archers, 71-68, on October 27 at the Ynares Sports Center, Antipolo, Rizal, in their second round matchup for the UAAP Season 82 Men’s Basketball elimination rounds. The Maroons were thus assured of the second seed and its twice-to-beat advantage in the semifinal with a 9-4 win-loss record.
The feat looked easy in the beginning with UP gaining its biggest lead, 16 points, at 27-11, early in the second quarter. But this was followed by a 21-0 rally by the Archers in the same quarter, which rendered the Maroons visibly rattled: Bright Akhuetie committed a three-second violation, and Juan Gomez de Liaño badly missed a three-pointer. Archer Brandon Bates was unguarded when he gave his team the lead, 29-27, through a layup, with 1:38 left in the quarter. This was followed by him emphatically blocking a Rivero one-hand dunk; then by Aljun Melecio sinking a three-pointer, giving the Archers their biggest lead at 32-27.
UP got its bearings back with Akhuetie breaking the Archer rally at the 0:54 mark, then sinking a charity and promptly following these up with a basket to tie the game at 32. The quarter ended with UP getting back the lead, 35-34, with a Jun Manzo three-pointer at 0:11.
UP ended the third quarter with a 10-point lead, 55-45. But La Salle made a come-back in the fourth with a 9-0 run from its 57-62 deficit, beginning with two charities by Justine Baltazar and a basket by Encho Serrano. La Salle made a steal after Serrano’s failed charity, which Melecio tried to convert to a three-pointer, at which point he was fouled by Paras. Melecio sank all three on the line, giving La Salle a two-point advantage over UP, 64-62. He extended the lead to four with a bucket from the edge of the perimeter with 2:54 remaining in the game.
UP responded with Manzo taking advantage of the Archers’ focus on Akhuetie, cutting to the shaded lane from the arc, and making a layup from Akhuetie’s assist. Akhuetie would tip the ball in from a shot by Rivero to lock the game again at 66, at the turn of the last two minutes. DLSU answered back with a Serrano basket making it through the much taller Paras, with 1:35 left in the fourth.
But UP was quick to convert on their next possession, tying the score again, 68 all, courtesy of Akhuetie. Regaining the ball back from a passing error by La Salle, UP secured the crucial lead, 70-68, with Paras driving the hammer down on a dunk assisted by Manzo, at 0:54, to the relief and jubilation of the Maroon-jampacked crowd.
With the tight defense of UP at the perimeter, Melecio shot from beyond the arc but went short. This was followed by a frenzied exchange of possessions ending up in misses. DLSU was left with no other option but to foul on UP after UP’s rebound with just 11 seconds left, first on Manzo, then on Javi Gomez de Liaño, then on Akhuetie, finally earning penalty shots for Manzo on the fourth, at the 0:02 mark. Manzo would split his charities, giving UP the winning three-point lead. The two seconds gave a window for a Bates rebound, a pass to Baltazar then to Serrano, who was hard pressed on a clutch three-point attempt that was a tad too strong.
With the 6-7 win-loss record, the Archers were left out of contention in the playoffs, handing the berth over to UST with its 8-6. UP will be going up against the Ateneo Blue Eagles in their last game in the eliminations, the results of which would make the difference between a regular final four or a stepladder final four.