Struggling all season long, Juan Gomez de Liano proved he’s still a big-time player, sinking a clutch triple to lift the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons to a 72-71 escape over De La Salle University Green Archers, Wednesday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
Gomez de Liano’s interception of a wild Aljun Melecio crosscourt pass led to the game-winning triple with 7.8 seconds left. He capped off a season-best outing to the tune of his 10 points and five rebounds.
“Juan is always a winner,” confidently expressed coach Bo Perasol. “I didn’t have any doubt in my mind when he was bringing down the ball that he was going to make that shot.”
That bucket capped off the Fighting Maroons’ rally from 13-points down, then a 59-52 deficit entering the fourth period. They powered a 9-2 blast to make a game out of it at 61-all with 8:12 remaining.
Kobe Paras was vital in that rally, finishing with 21 points on a 13-of-14 clip from the charity stripe. He also had two rebounds and two steals.
Meanwhile, Bright Akhuetie added 17 points, 14 boards, three assists, two steals, and two blocks for UP’s fourth straight win.
The Fighting Maroons rise to 5-1 in the standings.
“My team is just like leading a chariot with wild stallions. One goes to the right, one to the left, one to the middle, but come winning time, they get their acts together. We get the win, what can I say?” said Perasol.
La Salle almost had the win in the bag after leading 71-69 in the last minute. Unfortunately, Jamie Malonzo muffed his freebies, then Melecio turning the ball over late, leading to Gomez de Liano’s heroics.
Even after UP got the lead, the Green Archers still had shots to take the win, but Andrei Caracut and Joaqui Manuel could not capitalize on their chances in the endgame.
Caracut and Melecio both scored 16 in the losing cause for La Salle, who dropped to 2-4.
In a rematch of last season’s Finals, UP take on the Ateneo Blue Eagles to close out the first round this Sunday, September 29, 4:00pm at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. Meanwhile, La Salle take the game to the UST Growling Tigers the day before, 2:00pm at the MOA Arena.
UP 72 — Paras 21, Akhuetie 17, Ju. Gomez de Liano 10, Rivero 9, Manzo 5, Tungcab 5, Webb 3, Jaboneta 2, Gob 0, Ja. Gomez de Liano 0, Murrell 0, Prado 0, Spencer 0.
DLSU 71 — Caracut 16, Melecio 16, Baltazar 13, Bartlett 8, Malonzo 7, Manuel 5, Serrano 4, Lojera 2, Bates 0, Cu 0.
Quarterscores: 14-18, 29-36, 52-59, 72-71.