by Raphael Rayco
The University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons lost their fifth straight game in the UAAP Season 78 men’s basketball competition against the Adamson University Soaring Falcons, 68-73, at the Mall of Asia Arena, Sunday.
“In the last five games, medyo naging emotional ‘yung mga bata, (they went a little bit emotional,)” said UP head coach Rensy Bajar. “Masyadong mababa ‘yung morale. ‘Yun ‘yung naging [struggle] namin. (Their morale was very low. We struggled with it.)”
Paul Desiderio’s game-high 26 points was not enough to pull a comeback win for UP, who closed their first round campaign in a wrong foot after posting an emphatic 2-0 start at the early part of the season.
Jerome Garcia became the breakout star for Adamson, scoring 26 points to give the San Marcelino-based dribblers their first win of the season.
The Maroons were down by seven points after the first quarter, when a 5-0 mini-run highlighted by Cheick Kone’s breakaway jam narrowed the gap to 19-21 at the start of the second quarter.
The Falcons, however, answered with a 10-2 run of their own to push their lead to double digits, 31-21.
With 3:04 remaining in the first half, UP’s starting center Jerson Prado had a bad fall in an attempt to rebound. The officials called a timeout and he was sent out of the court with a stretcher while holding on to his right knee.
The 6’5 bruiser out of Glenwood High in Australia is scheduled to have an MRI to check if there is an injury in any of his ligaments.
Prado’s injury seemed to have gotten the team fired up as they outscored the Falcons, 18-10, in the third quarter.
UP’s fightback continued in the final quarter with Desiderio leading a 13-2 run to tie the game at 59 with 6:10 remaining.
The Diliman-based squad eventually got their first lead since their 8-7 advantage in the first canto via a Dave Moralde trey, 62-61.
However, UP’s turnovers and crucial baskets by AdU’s Garcia, Joseph Nalos, and JD Tungcab eventually sealed the game for Adamson.
UP’s second top scorer of the season, Jett Manuel, who played nine minutes in this game, ended up scoreless for the second straight game.
“[It’s a bit frustrating, but] it’s not enough for us to call it a season,” said the veteran. “The second half that we played a while ago is something to be proud of, but 19 points is a big, big hole to come back from.”
The Fighting Maroons now hold a 2-5 win-loss card coming into the second round of the competition.
“[We need to] push ourselves to the limit. Kailangan naming lahat na maniwala na kaya naming manalo, (We all have to believe that we can win.)” added Bajar.
AdU 73 – J. Garcia 26, Nalos 15, Tungcab 13, Sarr 8, Polican 5, Ochea 4, Margallo 2, Ng 0, C. Garcia 0, Villanueva 0, Camacho 0.
UP 68 – Desiderio 26, Longa 9, Jaboneta 7, Dario 6, Kone 4, Amar 4, Prado 4, Moralde 3, Vito 3, Asilum 2, Harris 0, Lim 0, Manuel 0, Juruena 0.
Quarter scores: 21-14; 47-28; 57-46; 73-68