This time, Sean Manganti ran out of time to break the Maroons’ hearts once again.

The University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons displayed colossal composure amid the chase of Adamson University (AdU) Soaring Falcons, 73-71, to force a rubber match in the UAAP Season 81 Men’s Basketball Tournament semifinals yesterday, November 24, at the Mall of Asia Arena.

It was an all-team effort for season MVP Bright Akhuetie to sink that game-winning bucket with 3.7 seconds left on the shot clock.

UP captain Paul Desiderio went up against taller Papi Sarr with a hardback screen, Jun Manzo with a fake pick action, and Juan Gomez de Liano nailing the target pass to Akhuetie.

The Maroon-clad crowd visibly played sixth member of the team, cheering “Atin ‘to!” during the inbound play.

“We can’t help but hear the crowd. At the back of my mind, how can we disappoint these people who are supporting us?” said UP head coach Bo Perasol.

State U nearly pulled away with a 13-point lead, but AdU captain Manganti stepped on the gas with a transition layup to tie the match at 69-all.

But Desiderio, who scored zero in the first half, peaked in the right time and finished with 19 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists.

He scored the crucial stepback jumper over Jerome Lastimosa in the last 5.5 seconds, giving the Maroons a 71-69 lead.

“Kanina, iniisip ko na nung nagrarally na yung Adamson, ‘eto na naman. Hindi kami magigive up, bibigyan pa namin ng isa pang chance para makapasok kami sa finals,” Desiderio said.

Ayaw ko pang last game ko ‘to,” Desiderio said.

Just when UP thought it was over, Manganti again salvaged a two-point deficit courtesy of a foul called against Janjan Jaboneta.

“Adamson is very resilient and I keep on telling my players that no matter what happens we have to go through these kinds of games and we’re just blessed we got the victory,” said Perasol.

With MVP Akhuetie feeling under the weather, the Maroons relied on the Gomez de Liano brothers, Manzo, and big man Jerson Prado, who was unfortunately fouled out in the second frame.

The younger Gomez De Liano ended with 19 points off the bench, while older brother, Javi, detonated his nine points from the field in the third frame.

Sarr and Manganti paced the Falcons with 23 and 15, respectively, while Ahanmisi was limited to a single three-pointer and was 2-of-12 from floor.

UP proceeds to a sudden death match against Adamson on Wednesday, November 28, 3:30pm, at the Araneta Coliseum to see who will face the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) Blue Eagles in the finals.

The Scores

UP 73 – Desiderio 19, Gomez de Liaño Ju 19, Manzo 9, Gomez de Liaño Ja 9, Akhuetie 6, Prado 4, Dario 3, Jaboneta 2, Vito 2, Murrell 0, Gozum 0, Lim 0, Tungcab 0.

Adamson 71 – Sarr 23, Manganti 15, Ahanmisi 9, Camacho 8, Lastimosa 7, Espeleta 5, Magbuhos V 4, Pingoy 0, Mojica 0, Catapusan 0, Bernardo 0. TNP

Photo by Summer Padilla

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