Vying to end a 21-year final four drought in the UAAP Season 81 Men’s Basketball Tournament, the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons bested the University of Sto. Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers, 83-69, today, November 10, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

In the first frame, starters Bright Akhuetie, Janjan Jaboneta, and Paul Desiderio pitched in 11 points. However, the Fighting Maroons were not able to convert their possessions due to multiple turnovers as well as being in foul trouble across the quarter.

With three minutes and 47 seconds left, the shove of Javi Gomez de Liano on Thomasian ballplayer Renzo Subido earned the latter three successful free throws.

Being affected by the Mayhem Defense a la Ayo, the Diliman cagers concluded this canto with 19 points against UST’s 22.

Despite their dragging start, UP was able to take the lead in the second quarter. Minutes in, UST star rookie CJ Cansino injured his left knee and was stretchered out of the court.

Shortly after, UP’s eight unanswered points led by David Murrell and Juan Gomez De Liano kept the team afloat until Subido disrupted this streak with a bucket.

Another uncontested lead with the same number of points by Desiderio, Murrell, and Akhuetie, ended the first half with a score of 42-38 favoring State U.

UP displayed their offensive prowess during the initial 20 minutes which was reflected by eight fastbreak points and 20 rebounds. 

Come third canto, UP went on a 6-0 run within the first 240 seconds. The yellow side of the court answered back with a six-point run of their own.

Attempting to better their defense, UP took a turn for the worse as they were charged with multiple fouls. However, this did not stop them from adding 21 points to their name in this frame and headed into the last 10 minutes with a 63-54 standing.

UST Team Captain Marvin Lee may have gotten the last shot of the game, but UP controlled the pace of the fourth quarter.  

Only Akhuetie and Jaboneta were able to score in the last frame with 13 and seven points, respectively. Following the duo’s seven-point run, Ira Bataller and Marvin Lee countered with two inside shots and two made free throws to conclude the matchup, 83-69.  

MVP favorite Bright Akhuetie put up his usual double-double with 25 points and 18 rebounds. Paul Desiderio and Juan Gomez De Liano followed with 19 and 11 points, independently.

Marvin Lee led UST with 26 points.

This triump was not enough for UP Fighting Maroons Head Coach Bo Perasol as he believes that his players should focus on what is ahead instead of resting on their laurels.

“We have to put this win behind us. We cannot overthink this because there’s a more crucial game coming on Wednesday.”, said Perasol.

This Wednesday, the UP Fighting Maroons will aim to make their Final Four dreams a reality in their battle against the De La Salle University (DLSU) Green Archers on November 14, 2018 at the Mall of Asia Arena. TNP

Photo by Cleverlyn Mayuga

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