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Desiderio, UP headed to UAAP finals after thrilling overtime win

The UP Fighting Maroons are in the UAAP finals for the first time in 32 years.

Paul Desiderio hit the biggest shots in overtime, including the go-ahead jumper with six seconds left, to tow the Fighting Maroons to a thrilling 89-87 victory over the Adamson Soaring Falcons in Game 2 of the UAAP Season 81 Final Four Wednesday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

This marks the first time that the Fighting Maroons advanced to the league's biggest stage since they last won the championship in 1986.

"It wasn't without hard work, it wasn't without tears, it wasn't without challenges. This team will fight no matter what," said UP head coach Bo Perasol about the historic win.

The Falcons launched a furious second-half rally to climb back from a 16-point deficit. Jerom Lastimosa came up huge in the clutch by knocking down a triple that tied the game at 78-all and forced overtime.

Lastimosa knocked down another crucial trey to push Adamson to a six-point lead, 84-78, with 2:39 left in the extra period. But the Fighting Maroons retorted with six unanswered points courtesy of Diego Dario, Juan Gomez de Liaño, and Bright Akhuetie to knot the score again at 84.

Desiderio worked his magic down the stretch, starting with a three-pointer that made it 87-85 with 41 seconds remaining. Lastimosa nailed a pair of free throws for one last deadlock before Desiderio finished it off with a tough basket over the outstretched arms of Sean Manganti.

Juan Gomez de Liaño waxed hot with a career-high 30 points including four three-pointers, alongside six rebounds and two assists. Desiderio delivered an all-around game of 15 points, 11 rebounds, four steals, and two assists. Akhuetie also finished with a double-double of 13 points and 17 rebounds.

Jerrick Ahanmisi topped for the Falcons with 20 points but he struggled with a 6-for-19 shooting clip. Lastimosa had 17 points, seven rebounds, and five assists, while Papi Sarr added 16 points and 15 boards.

UP arranged a finals date with the top-seeded Ateneo Blue Eagles.

THE SCORES

UP (89) -- Gomez de Liaño Ju. 30, Desiderio 16, Akhuetie 13, Gomez de Liaño Ja. 8, Tungcab 6, Prado 6, Dario 5, Manzo 4, Jaboneta 1, Lim 0, Vito 0.

AdU (87) -- Ahanmisi 20, Lastimosa 17, Sarr 16, Camacho 10, Pingoy 7, Manganti 6, Magbuhos V. 6, Espeleta 2, Mojica 2, Bernardo 1.

Quarterscores: 26-16, 51-42, 64-67, 78-78, 89-87

EXTRA DRIBBLES

- Paul Desiderio went 2-for-18 from the field before hitting the game-winning baskets in the dying seconds of overtime.

- The Falcons have lost in all of their eight Final Four appearances, including three straight in the coach Franz Pumaren era.

NEXT GAME

Finals Game 1 - UP vs Ateneo on December 1 (Sat) at Mall of Asia Arena