By Anton Onato
The University of the Philippines bade goodbye to season 76 winless as they bowed to the University of the East in a neck-to-neck battle, 76-73, Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Despite a hard comeback from 16 points down late in the third to open the fourth period and a taste of the lead heading into the last two minutes of the game, 72-68, UP failed to stop UE’s guard Lord Casajeros and Adi Santos’ from sinking a crucial trey and an inside the rim shot to win the game.
The Fighting Maroons wrapped up another winless season, having gone 0-14 in 2007 and 2010. The Red Warriors ended with a 7-7 slate.
“I told the team that we were already one game away from a playoff and two wins away from the Final Four,” said UE head coach Boysie Zamar.
“With Olivares and Mammie out, and with Casajeros out dahil sa suspension, na-hurt talaga yung chances namin,” he added.
UP raced to an early 10-5 lead behind Sam Marata’s tough jumpers in the first quarter, but UE came back strong behind reserve guards Ralf Olivares and Gino Jumao-as, who led a 5-0 run which allowed the Warriors to tie the game. The two squads traded leads for the rest of the frame before Chris Javier’s inside the paint shot which gave UE the upper hand, 20-19.
The Red Warriors leaned on Charles Mammie’s dominance inside the paint as they stretched the lead to 11, 36-25 in the second quarter. UP tried to inch closer, getting to within six, 40-34, but Santos made his presence felt for UE as he delivered back-to-back outside shots paddling the lead to 10, 44-34, entering the half time break.
Maroons’ guard Kyle Suarez and center Raul Soyud’s tandem paid off as they inched closer and cut the deficit to only three, 68-65 in the third.
Marata delivered a crucial trey at the 2:52 mark to tie the game, 68-all in the final canto. Soyud then gave his team the lead as he came out strong with a tricky inside shot followed by two charities, 72-68.
Marata and Soyud led the Maroons scoring a game-high 22 points and 15 points respectively in their final game as Fighting Maroons.
Moriah Gingerich and Julius Wong also kissed goodbye to UAAP with a combined 5 points against UE.
UE 76- Mammie 21, Casajeros 17, Olivares 12, Jumao-as 9, Alberto 7, Santos 6, Javier 4
UP 73- Marata 22, Soyud 15, Lao 10, Suarez 6, Ligad 5, Gallarza 4, Asilum 3, Wong 2, Harris 2, Ball 2, Gingerich 1, Amar 1
20-19, 44-34, 66-55, 76-73