Jerom Lastimosa's clutch baskets nearly propelled the Adamson Falcons to the UAAP Season 81 finals.
The rookie guard hit a game-tying triple with 2.6 seconds left in regulation to force overtime. Then in the extra period, he capped off a 6-0 run with another booming triple to push Adamson to an 84-78 advantage at the 2:39 mark. The Fighting Maroons, however, managed to climb back and take the lead.
With the clock winding down, Lastimosa converted a pair of free throws for one last deadlock before Paul Desiderio sealed UP's win with a dagger jumper. The Falcons still had 6.6 seconds to make a counter attack but Lastimosa's potential game-winning triple was off.
As the maroon side of the arena celebrated, Lastimosa could not help but break into tears. "It was a good game but we still lost, we fell short in the last five minutes," Lastimosa said in Filipino post-match.
The 20-year-old Lastimosa showed his potential in his first year with Adamson. The team had Sean Manganti and Jerrick Ahanmisi as its go-to players, but Lastimosa was always there behind the scenes to serve as a bundle of energy that does the little things and provides the intangibles.
In the biggest game of his career so far, Lastimosa delivered 17 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and a block. More importantly, he was responsible for eight of his team's last 10 points in crunch time. Had the Falcons won and broke a 26-year finals drought, he would have emerged as the game hero instead of Desiderio.
"When I shot the three points [in regulation], my mindset was that the Lord will give the game to us," shared Lastimosa. "But it turned out that it wasn't for us. So sad."
Despite not being used to the bright lights, the transferee from Asian College in Dumaguete made the most out of the golden opportunity given to him.
"I'm a rookie and it's my first time in the UAAP," said Lastimosa. "When I transferred here, I didn't expect that I'll be able to bring my game from Dumaguete to here." Adamson coach Franz Pumaren was not surprised with Lastimosa's performance, noting that developing under-the-radar guys like him was a testament to the Falcons' program.
"Whoever heard of Jerom Lastimosa? Not even a single drop in the radar saw him noticed," said Pumaren. "What we showed this year and the last two years is that we can develop our recruits."
"He's going to be mentioned in the conversation," the coach continued. "He made some mental mistakes but that's part and parcel of being a -year-old kid out of the province. I don't think he imagined that he will play in a situation like this."
After wrapping up his maiden season in the league with a heartbreak, Lastimosa vows to continuously improve to repay the trust that the coaches and the Adamson community gives him.
"I'm so blessed that in my first time to play in the UAAP, many people were there and I'm thankful to our crowd," he said. "I will work hard [in my remaining years]. I will continue to mature and elevate my game."