ANTIPOLO — University of the Philippines snared the no. 2 seed in the UAAP Season 82 Men’s Basketball Tournament with a 71-68 escape of La Salle, Sunday at the Ynares Center.
Kobe Paras delivered the go-ahead slam with 54.8 seconds remaining to push the Fighting Maroons up, 70-68. Their defense then prevailed in the endgame, forcing Encho Serrano to a turnover and a forced layup in the final minute.
Jun Manzo secured the victory with a split from the line.
UP has assured itself of a twice-to-beat incentive in the semis, its highest finish in the Final Four era.
“How could we disappoint our community who came here in throngs, who have been supporting us all through the season?” said coach Bo Perasol, as the Fighting Maroons improved to 9-4 in the standings.
“I mentioned to the guys that you’re not just fighting for our position but also fighting for our survival as well.”
Manzo was the main man for UP with his 11 points, eight assists, and five rebounds. Meanwhile, Bright Akhuetie topped the team in scoring with 17 points, on top of 10 boards, two assists, and two steals.
Ricci Rivero also posted a season-high 12 points, five rebounds, and two dimes, while Paras got 10 points and four rebounds.
Their brilliance helped UP establish an early 17-3 opener, before the furious La Salle got back in the second quarter and even took a 32-27 lead.
The Fighting Maroons also seized a 60-51 edge with 7:14 left, but the Green Archers set up the frantic finish. They then went on a 15-2 run that made it a 66-52 La Salle lead with 2:55 on the clock.
Akhuetie and Paras, however, had other plans. The two came up with big buckets in the endgame to set the Final Four cast and eliminate the 6-7 Green Archers.
Jamie Malonzo paced La Salle with points and 11 rebounds in the losing cause.
UP 71 — Akhuetie 17, Rivero 12, Manzo 11, Paras 10, Ja. Gomez de Liano 8, Webb 6, Ju. Gomez de Liano 3, Prado 2, Tungcab 2, Spencer 0.
DLSU 68 — Malonzo 17, Melecio 12, Baltazar 10, Bates 8, Serrano 8, Lojera 4, Manuel 4, Bartlett 3, Hill 2, Caracut 0.
Quarterscores: 21-11, 35-34, 55-45, 71-68.