Mathew Montebon made sure Adamson University lives to fight another day.
Montebon made the biggest shot of his young career, giving the Soaring Falcons one more game at a chance to gain a UAAP Season 86 Men’s Basketball Final Four berth.
The shot also broke the hearts of season hosts University of the East Red Warriors, 63-61, on Sunday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
Adamson was facing the jaws of defeat, down 61-60 with just 2.7 seconds remaining.
Then Montebon, a transferee out of Paul Smith’s College in New York, caught the ball from the sideline.
He faced up graduating UE forward Abdul Sawat – then knocked down a clutch stepback triple to give his side the lead.
Off a timeout, Jack Cruz-Domont caught a crosscourt inbound for a wide-open look. However, his attempt only hit the side of the board as Adamson escaped with the win.
“I was just in the zone during that play,” said Montebon, who ended up with 16 points built on four treys to go with seven rebounds and two assists.
“When I got it, I didn’t know who was behind me. So I just did a step-back corner (three). I thought I missed because I just threw it up and fell down but luckily it went in,” he reflected.
With the win, the Soaring Falcons are knotted with the Ateneo Blue Eagles for the last Final Four spot with 7-7 slates. The playoff will take place on Wednesday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
This is the second successive year that Adamson will figure in a playoff for fourth spot.
Back in Season 85, the Soaring Falcons finished with a 7-7 record as well, and even defeated the De La Salle Green Archers, 80-76, last December 4.
“I like how it ended,” said third-year Soaring Falcons head coach Nash Racela. “Walang script dun ah. UE really made it tough for us. Some would say really chamba. I won’t deny that. Mukha namang chamba talaga.
“I think from the very beginning, that’s what we emphasized to our players – that there are no freebies in this world. You have to earn everything. You have to take it if you want it. Today we thank UE for allowing us to do that,” the former UAAP champion coach continued.
“Talagang pinahirapan kami. They didn’t give it to us on a silver platter.”
After Precious Momowei gave the Red Warriors a slender 57-58 edge with 2:18 left in the game, both squads traded possessions.
Then Didat Hanapi finally found a way through to hand a 59-58 edge back to the Soaring Falcons with 53 seconds remaining.
However, there was gonna be a sting in the plot for Adamson.
Hanapi’s failure to score again and Vince Magbuhos splitting his free throws gave Jack Cruz-Dumont a chance to break the Soaring Falcons’ hearts with a crunchtime three with 11 seconds left.
And then Montebon rose to the occasion to save Adamson’s season.
Cedrick Manzano led Adamson with 16 points, 10 rebounds, and four steals Magbuhos also chipped in 10 points and eight rebounds for the Soaring Falcons.
The Soaring Falcons’ persistence paid off as they produced 18 second-chance points to the Red Warriors’ two. Adamson also seized 54 rebounds to UE’s 36.
On the other hand, the Red Warriors finished the season with a 4-10 record in sixth place. They finished in the same place as last season but with one less win.
Abdul Sawat is the only graduating player for UE.
Rey Remogat flirted with a triple-double as he produced 16 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists to lead UE in its last game of the season.
Nigerian center Momowei produced 15 points and 11 rebounds while Cruz-Dumont contributed 13 points, four rebounds, and three steals.
UE has yet to return to the Final Four since Season 72.
Back then, they reached the finals under the late coach Lawrence Chongson, who had the likes of Paul Lee and Pari Llagas in his team.
Adamson 63 – Montebon 16, Manzano 16, Magbuhos 10, Yerro 8, Hanapi 5, Ojarikre 3, Erolon 3, Barcelona 2, Colonia 0, Ramos 0, Barasi 0, Anabo 0.
UE 61 – Remogat 16, Momowei 15, Cruz-Dumont 13, Galang 5, Lingolingo 3, Tulabut 3, Gilbuena 3, Maglupay 2, Sawat 1, Langit 0, Alcantara 0, Spandonis 0.
Quarterscores: 16-16, 37-29, 45-47, 63-61.