The UP Fighting Maroons sent a statement to the rest of the league that they’re ready to compete for the crown once again. They opened the new season with a strong win over the FEU Tamaraws, 61-55.
It was a Gomez De Liaño that led the charge but instead of last year’s breakout star Juan, it was his brother Javi that came out with a bang. The strong forward was relentless in the game, racking up scoring 22 points on 10/16 shooting, mostly on strong drives to the hoop. Jun Manzo added 9 points while Bright Akhuetie had seven points and 11 rebounds. LJ Gonzales had eight points, seven rebounds and six assists for FEU.
Gomez De Liaño took advantage of gaps in the FEU defense in the second quarter. He took the ball strong to the hoop and led UP to a double-digit lead heading into the half. The Tamaraws refused to get blown out in the game. FEU tightened up their defense in the third period, limiting UP to just nine points during that stretch. The Tamaraws clawed back to the game, tying it up at 55 heading into the final minutes of the game.
Needing a clutch basket, the Fighting Maroons found their MVP in the paint for a hook shot over the defense. That gave UP a lead that they would never relinquish. Manzo sealed the game with four straight free throws to give the Fighting Maroons the win.
In the third game of the day, the defending champions, the Ateneo Blue Eagles faced a tough challenged from the Adamson Falcons but were able to pull away with the win in the end game. The Blue Eagles used a strong defensive effort to get the big 70-52 win.
Angelo Kouame put on a stellar show on both ends of the floor. He finished the game with 17 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks. Thirdy Ravena also had a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds to help the Blue Eagle cause. Valandre Chauca led Adamson with 17 points and four assists.
The Blue Eagles started the game strong. Their defense held Adamson to just six points in the first period, as they contested every shot that Adamson threw up. Ateneo jumped out to a lead as big as 15 points in the game. With the game getting out of hand, the Falcons got a spark from Chauca. The point guard teamed up with Jerrick Ahanmisi to lead the Adamson charge in the final period. The two chipped away at Ateneo’s lead, cutting the deficit down to just five points midway through the final period.
That’s when Ateneo’s defense solidified once again. They held Adamson scoreless for close to five minutes as they went on a 13-0 run to close the game. Kouame sparked the run with a two-handed hammer off a nice feed from Gian Mamuyac and the Blue Eagles never looked back until the end.
In the first game of the day, the UST Growling Tigers showed off a new weapon in their 95-82 win over the UE Red Warriors.
Rookie Rhenz Abando erupted for a team-high 22 points to lead the Tigers to their first win. He got a lot of help from Chabi Chabi Yo who had 19 points and 12 rebounds. Brent Paraiso and Sherwin Concepcion contributed 10 points each. Rey Suerte led UE with 23 points.
Abando caught fire in the first half. He opened the game with eight points, dropping multiple triples to lead UST to an eight-point lead. He continued his torrid run with more outside shots and daring drives to the hoop. Abando was joined by Concepcion who also got his total thanks to multiple shots from the outside. UST opened up a 12-point lead heading into the half.
The Red Warriors tried to mount a comeback, cutting the lead down to single-digits in the final period. But Chabi Yo, Paraiso and Abando did enough to keep the lead at a safe level all the way to the end.