The University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons squander a 10-point lead in the final period and lose their third-straight game, falling to the Adamson University (AdU) Soaring Falcons, 68-69, on a Sean Manganti game-winner, today, at the FilOil Flying V Centre.

It was a fast-paced back and forth affair with State U and Adamson trading buckets in the first period that saw five deadlocks in the first seven minutes of the game.

With the score tied at 16 after two straight hoops from Javi Gomez de Liano, the Soaring Falcons went on an 8-0 run capped off by an and-1 conversion from Papi Sarr which gave Adamson a 24-16 lead to end the quarter.

The game slowed to a snail’s pace during the second quarter due to stifling defense from both teams, highlighted by big rejections from David Murrell and Sarr on one another’s attempts at the rim. UP held Adamson to only six points during the second frame to trim the Soaring Falcons’ lead to just two by the end of the half, 28-30.

The pace picked up once again after the halftime break as the Fighting Maroons came out strong with their transition attack, taking their first lead since the first quarter, 34-33, on an Akhuetie basket. State U went on a 14-6 run to start the half, culminating on a Murrell fastbreak layup to push the lead to six, 42-36.

The Fighting Maroons outscored the Soaring Falcons, 29-17, in the third quarter to lead by 10, 57-47, entering the fourth.

However, Adamson went soaring back in the final frame. With the score at 65-57 still in favor of UP, Manganti made two straight shots to gain momentum, followed by a Jerrick Ahanmisi three – pointer to cut the lead to one, 65-64, which forced UP into a timeout.

Juan Gomez de Liano sank a free-throw to answer Adamson’s run, but the Falcons took the lead on the ensuing possession on a corner three from Jonathan Espeleta, capping off a 10-1 surge for Adamson which gave them the one point advantage, 67-66.

UP’s offensive rebounding allowed them to regain possession with 20 seconds remaining. In the final moments of the game, the older Gomez de Liano threw an air-ball that was rebounded by Akhuetie who drew the putback and gave UP the lead, 68-67, with five seconds to go.

After an official review to determine whether Akhuetie released the ball on time to beat the shot clock, they made the basket official.

This set up Manganti’s heroics. After a strong drive to the rim, he tried to dish it off to Sarr for the game-winner, but the pass was deflected and the ball ended up in his hands where he drained a heavily-contested floater over the outstretched arms of Murrell with seven tenths of a second left on the clock.

“Life happens”, coach Bo Perasol said. “If it was a set-up play, if somebody got screened, if somebody got open [I could understand it], but that was a broken play.”

The Fighting Maroons had no timeouts remaining and had to heave a full-court pass which was intercepted by Ahanmisi to seal the game for Adamson, who move to 4-0.

“It’s humbling in the sense that the slate looks bleak”, Perasol added. “[But] I think we are still on track. We need to be positive.”

The Fighting Maroons were led by the younger Gomez de Liano and Akhuetie, who finished with 21, and 20 points, respectively.

Manganti led the winning side in scoring with 18 points.

“All I saw out there was we were grinding. Everybody was trying to do what everybody could to make sure we get it [the win]”, Akhuetie said. “We will get there. We just want to keep our heads up.”

The Fighting Maroons look to grind their way to victory and snap their three-game skid against the De La Salle University (DLSU) Green Archers on Sunday, September 30, at the Mall of Asia Arena at 2 pm. TNP

Photo by Selina Jo Paredes

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