Photo by Keith Magcaling

Text by Jedd Pagaduan

With a dagger three from the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons skipper Paul Desiderio, State U took their first win of the season against the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers, 74-73, today in the UAAP Season 80 men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Fighting Maroons were down by two with five seconds to go, and Desiderio had only one thing in mind – to win the game.

It was a slow start for the Fighting Maroons as the Growling Tigers raced to an early nine point advantage, 4-13, behind a barrage of layups. The España-based squad attacked first-year center Ibrahim Ouattara on the pick and roll where he was unable to close out on the pullup as they led 19-11.

The Fighting Maroons would not let up, as they closed the gap down to one at the end of the quarter, 19-18.

By the second period, the two squads traded baskets, with no team gaining the upper hand. UP started to pull away from the Growling Tigers behind a stifling defense and a blistering pace on offense, going on a 12-4 run to end the period to lead UST at the half, 42-33.

As Ouattara sat down due to foul trouble, UST mounted a comeback. Led by Steve Akomo, the Growling Tigers attacked the inside, trimming UP’s lead little by little and took the reins near the end of the quarter, 50-51.

Offense of both teams came to a screeching halt during the final frame. It seemed as if the Fighting Maroons dealt a knockout blow, in the form of an Ouattara and-one layup that caused Akomo to foul out. But the Growling Tigers wouldn’t go down without a fight.

The Growling Tigers scored six straight snatching the the lead, 70-68. State U managed to take the lead courtesy of a Desiderio lay-up and Noah Webb sinking one out of two from the charity stripe, 71-70.

Being in the penalty situation, the Tigers were once again able to take the lead sinking three straight free throws, 73-71.

Showing nerves of steel despite struggling all game long, Desiderio drained a clutch trey to win the match, 74-73.

“Sabi ko sa sarili ko papasok ‘to,” the Maroon skipper said. “Nag-timeout pa lang si Coach Bo, sinabi ko sa kanila na pag open ako, ibigay niyo kasi ititira ko talaga.”

“Ang dami ko nang tinira eh, sabi ko, mahihiya pa ba ko eh last shot na, sayang naman,” Desiderio  said. “Sabi naman ni Coach Bo na pag open, ‘itira mo na’, so ayun tinira ko na lang din, buti na lang pumasok.”

Desiderio led UP with 17 points and nine rebounds. Overall, it was a balanced effort for the Fighting Maroons, a number of players chipping in to win the game.

Meanwhile, Marvin Lee paced the Growling Tigers in scoring with 20 points.

The Fighting Maroons look to build on this exciting victory on Wednesday, 4 pm, against the Ateneo De Manila University Blue Eagles at the Araneta Coliseum. #



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