By Ara Nacario
Fresh off a victory against the UE Red Warriors, the UP Fighting Maroons lost a heartbreaking duel against the defending champion FEU Tamaraws, 51-49, at the Araneta Coliseum, Sunday.
The first quarter score of 5-4 in favor of UP was the lowest output in a single quarter since 2013, according to UAAP Sports TV. Reserve forward Dave Moralde was the only Maroon to score in that quarter.
FEU led by as many as 13 in the third quarter, but an 8-0 personal run by tenacious UP guard Paul Desiderio trimmed the lead down to a single digit. On his several missed free throws (8/15 from the line), Desiderio admitted he needs improvement.
“Hindi ko nai-shoot yung mga free throws ko so kailangan ko pa mag-practice. Sa akin ‘yon, sa’ken,” Desiderio said.
The Maroons were tied with FEU with two minutes left at 47 points before FEU’s Monbert Arong ended it with a 3-point attack via a clutch free-throw and mid-range jumper at the next possession. UP missed the opportunity to take the lead when Jarrell Lim’s supposedly easy layup attempt was blocked by the 6’10” center Prince Orizu.
“I should have known better na parating siya, dapat hindi ako naging complacent na dapat libre na ako,” Lim said.
Nervous at first, Coach Nash Racela expressed his gratitude towards Orizu.
“Actually, natakot ako kasi nakita ko somebody was leaking out. Sabi ko, patay. So yeah, it’s nice that Prince never gave up on the play,” Racela said.
FEU starter Ron Dennison was ejected late in the game after he apparently hit Desiderio in the abdomen, which made him crumple to the floor. This move was met with backlash in social media as “Desiderio” trended on Twitter, with many people calling out the UP swingman for allegedly flopping – an overreaction to physical contact. Desiderio, however, reiterated that the hit was legitimate.
FEU is reportedly set to file a complaint to the UAAP for the disqualification call.
Desiderio once again led the Diliman-based squad with 13 points, although he missed seven free-throws and 11 field goals (3/14). Despite missing the potential game-winning shot, Moralde was all over the court and contributed a double-double (13 points, 11 rebounds).
For the champs of Morayta, only Arong scored in double figures in the low-scoring contest. Orizu went scoreless but had 15 rebounds and four critical blocks.
Overall, UP shot a horrible 22% from the field. FEU shot a little better at 30%, which was all they needed to edge out the Maroons.
UP will next face its neighbor school Ateneo Blue Eagles in a new Battle for Katipunan on Wednesday, Sept. 28 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.#
ERRATUM: FEU’s Arong did not make a three-point shot as written in an earlier version of this article. He made a free-throw and a mid-range jump shot at the next possession. We apologize for any confusion on our editorial team’s oversight.