A huge second half comeback and clutch free throws from Bright Akhuetie helped the UP Fighting Maroons earn a hard-fought 83-82 overtime victory over the Adamson Soaring Falcons Sunday night at MOA Arena.
The reigning UAAP Most Valuable Player knocked down two foul shots in the 2.8 seconds to give UP the lead in the extra session. Adamson went for the win but Jerom Lastimosa's attempt was blocked by Ricci Rivero at the buzzer.
"First let me just thank the Lord for giving us that opportunity," said a relieved UP coach Bo Perasol. "That was almost a lost opportunity for us, but my players just like Kobe (Paras) and Bright, James (Spencer), anybody out there, they just did not give up."
Akhuetie gave a herculean performance of 18 points and 18 rebounds. Kobe Paras, meanwhile, made his highly-anticpated debut after missing the first two games of the season due to injury and led his team with 20 points while logging in a game-high 41 minutes.
"I'm happy, I'm really happy," said Paras on his first game in the UAAP. "As everyone knows here, this is my fourth college so I'm just thankful for coach Bo and the whole UP community for giving me basically a third chance not just in basketball but in life.
In a rematch of last season's Final Four battle, the two teams figured in a dog fight in the second half. Adamson raced to a 16-point halftime lead thanks to superb shooting from Val Chauca. The Fil-Peruvian guard torched UP with 17 points in the first two quarters as the Falcons looked like they were about to cruise to their third straight win.
The Fighting Maroons, however, found renewed strength and fought back in the third canto. They unleashed a run of their own, going on a 16-3 spree to start the quarter. From then on, the two squads traded blows like a pair of heavyweights.
"I really believe that we have it in us, that kind of character. We just have to squeeze it. We just have to find a way to get it," said Perasol.
Javi Gomez De Liaño drilled a triple with 17.5 ticks left in regulation that sent the game into the extra period. In overtime, Adamson once again had control of the game, leading by seven points, 82-75, with two and a half minutes to play. UP dug deep and went to its defense to get back into the game.
The Fighting Maroons forced the Falcons to plenty of mistakes, including a late steal by Jun Manzo that made it a one-point game, 82-81, with roughly 30 seconds remaining. The game was still undecided in the closing moments with both teams exchanging possessions. In the mad scramble, Akhuetie was able to come up with the ball and was fouled going up for the shot.
"It was just everybody's contribution but the most important aspect of that is we did not give up. We fought for it. We're trying to build something and I think that we have put in one building block right now in our team," said Perasol.
After scoring 17 points in the first half, Chauca managed just four points in the last quarters and overtime to finish with 21 points. Rookie AP Manlapaz tried to provide the late-game heroics for Adamson in overtime, scoring six points. The Adamson high school product tallied 17 points in a losing effort.
UP 83 -- Paras 20, Akhuetie 18, Ju. Gomez de Liano 12, Murrell 6, Rivero 6, Spencer 6, Webb 6, Manzo 4, Ja. Gomez de Liano 3, Tungcab 2, Gob 0, Jaboneta 0, Mantilla 0, Prado 0.
ADAMSON 82 -- Chauca 21, Manlapaz 17, Douanga 14, Lastimosa 13, Ahanmisi 7, Magbuhos 4, Camacho 2, Flowers 2, Mojica 2, Fermin 0, Yerro 0, Zaldivar 0.
Quarters: 18-20, 25-41, 52-50, 73-73, 83-82.
Adamson's two-game win streak was cut short as UP bounced back from its previous defeat. The Falcons own a 2-2 record while the Fighting Maroons hold a 2-1 card.
Jerrick Ahanmisi could not replicate his previous performance of 28 points versus the UE Red Warriors. The veteran marksman struggled with just seven points on 3-for-11 shooting.
The Fighting Maroons won the inside battle against the Soaring Falcons. They had the edge in rebounding, 53-41, as well as in points in the paint, 48-34.
UP - September 18 vs NU at MOA Arena
Adamson - September 18 vs UST at MOA Arena