Desiderio drills game winner for Fighting Maroons

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Juan Gomez de Liano of University of the Philippines drives to the basket against John Macasaet of University of Santo Tomas during the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 80 men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City. PHOTO BY RUSSELL PALMA

University of Santo Tomas (UST) was so close to pulling off a Sunday shocker. Except that the Growling Tigers made a defensive lapse on University of the Philippines’ (UP) main man Paul Desiderio in the dying seconds.

Desiderio ran through a number of picks, got free from the defense of Zach Huang and hoisted the game-winning three-pointer with 1.1 ticks left to give the Fighting Maroons a thrilling 74-73 escape in Season 80 University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The fourth-year shooting guard was misfiring the whole match but came out with the most important basket for State University and foiled UST’s unbelievable comeback to join Ateneo de Manila University at the top.

“I’ve been hitting a lot of shots in the game why I will not take that one. I’m confident when I hit that shot,” said Desiderio, who emerged as the lone Fighting Maroon in double figures with 17 points but was 2-of-11 from the rainbow territory and 6-of-20 overall.


Jeepy Faundo’s desperation heave after Desiderio’s trip almost hit the target but it served notice to the league.

“This UST team is one tough team. They can definitely give anybody’s money worth. If you don’t take UST seriously, they’re going to pay for it,” said Fighting Maroons head coach Bo Perasol, whose team led as high as 11 points in the contest.

And they almost fell to that trap as UST kept on hanging on behind the gutsy plays of Steve Akomo, Marvin Lee and Jordan Sta. Ana as tehy tied the count at 68-all with 2:10 remaining.

They even took the lead at 73-71 on Lee’s two free throws with 5.3 seconds left on Gelo Vito’s foul.

Perasol took a timeout and let assistant coach Ricky Dandan drew the game-winning play.

“I don’t know how he (Desiderio) did it but during timeout he really called for it. He told us it will go in. And credit to coach Ricky Dandan for designing that offensive play,” added Perasol.

Vito added nine markers while Noah Webb and Juan Gomez de Liano each had seven points apiece for UP, which plays the Blue Eagles next.

Lee led all scorers with 20 points while Akomo had a solid UAAP debut with 15 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks before fouling out. Sta. Ana chipped in 11 points for the team of head coach Boy Sablan.

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