The Fighting Maroons have fought their last.
After a rollercoaster season with a historic second seed placement, the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons ended their Season 82 Men’s Basketball journey with a 65-68 loss to the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers, today at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena.
The loss is UP’s fourth season loss to UST, following their last game where the Maroons squandered their twice-to-beat seeding advantage. The outcome also stops UP from reaching a Finals rematch against the defending champion Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) Blue Eagles.
The game came down to two crucial events — an injury to team captain Noah Webb with 2:16 left; and a trey by UST guard Renzo Subido with 23.6 seconds left.
Subido’s three, and follow-up free throws by new UAAP MVP Soulemane Chabi Yo, pushed back a two-point lead UP spent four quarters to claim.
Foul trouble also hampered the Maroons as Jun Manzo fouled out with 2:33 left in his final game in the UAAP. Mythical Five forward Kobe Paras also picked up three fouls as early as the second quarter.
“At one point,” said head coach Bo Perasol. “It became bigger than us.”
Perasol came into the game with not just UP’s season to protect, but his own. He was under fire by many netizens for UP’s lopsided defeats. Yet, amid questions over his future, Perasol believes the season wasn’t for naught.
“We needed to put a ceiling,” he said, “na sana hindi na bumaba.”
When asked about his future, Perasol said the decision is up to the UP admin and team management, who appoint the head coach annually.
Some silver linings for the Maroons included Bright Akhuetie, whose hustle led to a 13-2 run in the second quarter that allowed UP to cut the lead UST built from the get-go. The former UAAP MVP still has one more year of eligibility in the UAAP.
Akhuetie led the team with 16 points and 17 rebounds. Jun Manzo and Ricci Rivero followed with 12 apiece.
The loss put UP at a bronze finish to close out UAAP Season 82.
QUARTER SCORES: 6-18, 28-29, 44-49, 65-68