University of the Philippines (UP) handed National University (NU) another heartbreaking defeat, 80-79, to snatch the solo second in Season 82 University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball tournament on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Reigning MVP Bright Akhuetie, prized recruit Kobe Paras and much-improved forward Javi Gomez De Liaño took up the scoring cudgels for the Fighting Maroons, who foiled the Bulldogs’ late fightback to seize the second spot with 3-1 record.
UP also scored its second straight win, but veteran coach Bo Perasol admonished his wards for squandering away their 14-point lead.
“We need to learn how to close out games together as a team,” said Perasol. “We’ve got three close games already. I think if we’re wise enough, we have to learn how to do it.”
Paras impressed anew in his second UAAP game, firing 25 points to go with six rebounds and two assists. Nigerian center Akhuetie pumped in 19 points, including two clutch free throws, to go with 12 rebounds while Gomez De Liaño scattered away 17 markers built on five triples.
In the second game, Adamson University unleashed a strong finish behind one-and-done player Val Chauca to stun University of Santo Tomas (UST), 78-71, and regain its winning form for a share of the third spot.
Fil-Peruvian guard Chauca sparked the Soaring Falcons’ 16-0 closing run as they improved to 3-2 while sending the Growling Tigers down to the same slate.
“I just had to tell everybody to stay within the course and of course, we got a big lift from Val,” said Adamson mentor Franz Pumaren, whose team clawed its way back from 13 points down to bounce back from an 82-83 overtime defeat to UP.
Akhuetie sank two free throws to give UP an 80-76 lead with 16.1 seconds remaining but sophomore guard Dave Ildefonso hit a step-back triple over two defenders to push NU within 79-80 with 11.6 ticks left.
David Murrell missed his freebies, giving the Bulldogs a chance to steal the victory. The Maroons heaved a sigh of relief when John Lloyd Clemente misfired a potential game-winning jumper as time expired.
Ildefonso’s 25 points along with Issa Gaye’s 13-marker, 13-board double-double and Shaun Ildefonso’s 13 points went for naught as Jamike Jarin’s NU suffered a third one-point loss and fourth overall in as many games.
Meanwhile, spitfire guard Jerrick Ahanmisi drained a game-high 24 points while Chauca was the only double-digit scorer with 18 markers, pouring seven of those in Adamson’s finishing blow.
Beninese big man Soulamane Chabi Yo had 17 points and 15 rebounds even as CJ Cansino, Sherwin Concepcion and Mark Nonoy had 10 markers each for UST.
The Tigers failed to score after Concepcion converted two free throws for a 71-62 lead with 3:07 left, allowing the Falcons to stage their fiery endgame run.
UP 80 – Paras 25, Akhuetie 19, Ja. Gomez de Liaño 17, Tungcab 6, Manzo 4, Rivero 4, Longa 3, Murrell 2, Ju. Gomez de Liaño 0, Gozum 0, Jaboneta 0, Prado 0, Spencer 0.
NU 79 — D. Ildefonso 25, Gaye 13, S. Ildefonso 13, Gallego 9, Joson 8, Minerva 7, Clemente 2, Mosqueda 2, Diputado 0, Galinato 0, Malonzo 0, Oczon 0, Tibayan 0, Yu 0.
Quarters: 18-23, 44-36, 67-59, 80-79
ADAMSON 78 – Ahanmisi 24, Chauca 18, Douanga 9, Fermin 7, Lastimosa 6, Mojica 5, Magbuhos 4, Camacho 3, Manlapaz 2, Bernardo 0, Flowers 0, Yerro 0, Zaldivar 0.
UST 71 – Chabi Yo 17, Cansino 10, Concepcion 10, Nonoy 10, Abando 9, Subido 6, Huang 4, Paraiso 3, Pangilinan 2, Ando 0, Caunan 0, Cuajao 0.
Quarters: 19-15, 33-38, 48-58, 78-71