Not wanting to fall to another upset, the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons sent the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers’ Final Four hopes crashing in a 83-69 triumph, Saturday evening at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
With the win, UP gained an edge over the FEU Tamaraws, as they now own a 7-6 record for a half-a-game lead. UST, however, fell to a 5-8 slate and are out of contention.
“Well, the best thing that this win has done for us is to place us in a position to fight for that slot. We need that one win on Wednesday. We have to put this win behind us,” shared third-year Fighting Maroons head coach Bo Perasol. “We cannot overthink this because there is a much more crucial game on Wednesday.”
Just like in their 86-72 win over UP last October 10, the backcourt duo of Marvin Lee and Renzo Subido torched the Fighting Maroons, helping the Growling Tigers erect a 10-point lead early.
However, disaster struck the Growling Tigers in the second frame.
With 5:57 left in the first half and UST leading 34-26, CJ Cansino went for a layup against David Murrell. He landed awkwardly and had to be stretchered out of the arena. The super rookie, who was averaging 13.7 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game prior to this contest, did not return to the game, finishing with two points and three boards.
“I hope that CJ is safe and nothing serious. That team is just superb. They won’t stop even if someone is down. They are there because of their persistence and play,” expressed Perasol.
Already without big man Steve Akomo for the majority of the tournament, the Growling Tigers struggled in the absence Cansino. Behind Paul Desiderio, the Fighting Maroons torched the Growling Tigers in the third canto as they knocked down four triples – highlighted by back-to-back shots from the UP skipper to give UP a 54-45 edge.
Desiderio finished with game with 19 points built on three triples, to go along with seven rebounds and four assists.
It was all UP in the final frame, as Bright Akhuetie and Janjan Jaboneta took turns bullying UST, powering UP to a lead that went to as high as 21 points, 83-62.
Akhuetie scored 13 of his 25 points in the final frame, while Jaboneta had seven of his nine markers during that same span. The Nigerian student-athlete also had 18 rebounds.
Juan Gomez de Liano glued things together with 11 points, six rebounds, and five assists.
“I’m just happy and proud for my boys here like Paul and Janjan,” said Perasol, as they have never made it this deep in the Final Four race since 1997.
Marvin Lee and Renzo Subido had 26 and 22 points, respectively, to lead UST.
Diego Dario missed the game due to a neck injury.
“Diego had an unfortunate neck injury during one of our practices. We are just waiting for clearance that he can play on Wednesday,” disclosed Perasol.
UP look to seal the last Final Four spot when they face the De La Salle University Green Archers on Wednesday, November 14, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena. UST, on the other hand, hope to end its campaign on a high note when they take on the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles on the same day at 2:00pm.
UP (83) – Akhuetie 25, Desiderio 19, Ju. Gomez de Liaño 11, Jaboneta 9, Murell 6, Manzo 5, Prado 3, Vito 3, Ja. Gomez de Liaño 2, Lim 0, Tungcab 0, Spencer 0, Española 0, Gozum 0, Longa 0.
UST (69) – Lee 26, Subido 22, Bataller 7, Mahinay 4, Marcos 3, Huang 2, Cansino 2, Caunan 2, Zamora 1, Agustin 0, Bonleon 0.
Quarterscores: 19-22, 42-38, 63-54, 83-69