Photo by Quin Astilla

Recovering from back-to-back losses, the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons evaded the challenge of the University of the East (UE) Red Warriors, 78-75, in the second round of the UAAP Season 82 Men’s Basketball Tournament today at the Mall of Asia Arena. 

There is no time for celebration for the Fighting Maroons even after securing a solo spot at second with a 6-3 slate, said interim head coach Ricky Dandan. 

“We are not going to celebrate this obviously but this is our sixth win. The relevance of this is that we get a little distance from our nearest pursuers in the standings,” he said.

In what was arguably their should-have-been the most dominant game of the season after a hot 27-10 first quarter start, Coach Ricky emphasized how they wanted to ‘win more convincingly’ as they lost steam along the game.

“We were playing really well, our defense was carrying us but we have kind of lost it in patches so then our struggles came back… but these guys, regardless of what the circumstances are, they will always fight,” he said.

Despite a dominant first quarter, the Maroons suddenly slowed down after Rey Suerte and Philip Manalang came alive in the second canto, pouring in 31 points for UE, 44-42. 

The Diliman squad picked up the pace and unleashed baskets in the third frame, banking the Red Warrior’s deficit at 15, 65-50.

However, the Recto-based squad managed to keep close as they cut the lead by only two points, 69-67, before UP pulled away until the final buzzer.

Five jerseys from the Maroons scored in double digits, with Jun Manzo dropping a season-high performance of 17 points and five assists, and Ricci Rivero earning a season-high as an Isko with 10 markers.

Bright Akhuetie, Kobe Paras and Javi Gomez de Liaño proved to be State U’s stabilizing forces, with Akhuetie posting another double-double performance at 18 points and 14 rebounds and Paras and Gomez de Liaño adding a combined 24 markers. 

The UE Red Warriors’ scare made coach Ricky waste no time preparing for their next foe, the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers, to avenge their first round loss on October 16 at the MOA Arena.

“Our thoughts and all our efforts was centered on UE. So after this, I’m going to view UST already and we will start preparing as early as tomorrow,” he said.


QUARTER SCORES: 27-10, 46-41, 65-50, 78-75


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