With the race to the semifinals heating up, the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons send the National University (NU) Bulldogs on the brink of elimination and claim solo fourth, 82-71, today, November 3, at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.

The first period saw a series of deadlocks with both squads trading buckets to which UP ended the quarter up by two, 17-15.

It was no different in the first few minutes of the second frame, but the Bulldogs were quick to take advantage of UP being in the penalty with Shaun and Dave Ildefonso and Issa Gaye frequenting the charity stripe four consecutive times where they made 5/8 free throws to cut the Fighting Maroons’ lead to one, 31-30.

State U countered with a 9-0 run topped off by a buzzer beater layup from captain Paul Desiderio that extended UP’s lead to 10, 40-30, to end the first half.

The Fighting Maroons never relinquished their lead against NU in the second half extending it by as much as 16 points in the third quarter. However, the Bulldogs once again gave UP a scare in the fourth frame as the rookie Ildefonso scored two threes as well as Troy Rike banking in a shot that cut State U’s lead to just seven, 78-71.

Desiderio did not allow the game to slip away as he put UP back up nine, 80-71. With 16 seconds left, David Murrell secured the win for the Fighting Maroons with a controversial dunk, 82-71.

“‘Sakin yung iniisip ko na yun nga yung magandang ending namin, kumbaga habang may chance pa kaming mag final four, ibubuhos talaga namin, yun yung naging motivation namin.” Desiderio said on the win.

Gelo Vito added, “Bago kami mawala dito, bago namin tapusin UAAP careers namin, gusto namin mag final four and for that, na binibigay namin yung best namin … last two games na namin in the season, we wanna make it count.”

MVP frontrunner Bright Akhuetie packed his usual double-double with 21 points and 10 boards, Paul Desiderio scored 12 points, and Juan Gomez De Liano and Gelo Vito both racked up 10 points, respectively.

Dave Ildefonso led NU with 24 points.

UP hopes to strengthen their final four chances as they go up against the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers on Saturday, November 10, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. TNP

Photo by Clarizzah Tuallah

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