The Fighting Maroons return to the Finals after 32 years

UP Fighting Maroons 89 – AdU Soaring Falcons 87 (Fighting Maroons advance)

The UP Fighting Maroons and Adamson Soaring Falcons engaged in a classic Final Four game that everyone will remember for years to come. When the smoke cleared, the Fighting Maroons emerged victorious. They overcome a twice-to-beat disadvantage and continue their magical run, making it back to the UAAP Finals for the first time since 1986.

Early in the game, it looked like UP was going to run away with a win. The Falcons carried over their offensive struggles from the first game into Game 2. Sean Manganti was saddled with early foul trouble and had to sit for most of the first half. Jerrick Ahanmisi on the other hand was hounded by the UP defense. They refused to let him free, chasing him through a maze of picks and screens.

On offense, UP rode the hot hand of Juan Gomez De Liano. The second year scorer was on fire in the first half. He came off the bench in the first quarter and gave the Fighting Maroons a boost with his strong drives to the hoop and timely outside shooting. UP took a 10-point lead after the first period.

In the second quarter, Gomez De Liano and Ahanmisi engaged in a shootout. Both snipers were on point from beyond the arc, nailing tough, contested three-pointers over their defenders. Ahanmisi found his rhythm and dropped nine points in the second period to keep the Falcons afloat. But Gomez De Liano was better. He scored 13 points to keep the Fighting Maroons comfortably ahead heading into the half.

UP continued their rampage to start the second half. Gomez De Liano stayed locked in, hitting another three-pointer over the Adamson defense to help build a 16-point lead midway through the quarter. But, just when it seemed like UP was going to cruise to the win, momentum suddenly shifted Adamson’s way. Gomez De Liano got his fourth foul and had to go to the bench. Bright Akhuetie also left the game due to a leg injury.

That left the door open for the Falcons to make their comeback. Jerom Lastimosa and Simon Camacho injected Adamson with the energy they were lacking for most of the game. They two pressured the UP ball handlers and forced several turnovers which led to quick buckets on the other end. Ahanmisi and Jerie Pingoy got in on the scoring with shots from the outside. Adamson ended the third quarter on a 23-4 run, capped by a stretch layup by Lastimosa to beat the buzzer.

The Falcons took a three-point lead heading into the final period and the game was a back and forth affair all the way to the end.

The Falcons were holding a one-point lead with a little over three minutes left. They got the ball to Jerrick Ahanmisi but Jun Manzo stripped the Falcons’ scorer and took it all the way to the cup to give UP the lead back. Manzo came up big again a few minutes later. Holding on to a one-point lead with less than 20 seconds left, Paul Desiderio was shut down and had to shovel a pass to Manzo. The senior point guard drove to the hoop with the shot clock winding down and scored on an off-balance layup to extend UP’s lead to three with 10 seconds left.

That left enough time for the Falcons to find an equalizer. The Falcons tried to run a play to get Ahanmisi the ball but they couldn’t inbound it to their best shooter. So they dumped it into Lastimosa. The point guard faked his defender, dribbled to the side and banked in a three-pointer to tie the game and send it to overtime.

Early in the extra period, the Falcons carried over the momentum of Lastimosa’s game-tying shot with them. Camacho scored on a layup inside and Lastimosa nailed another big three-pointer to give Adamson a six-point lead, their biggest of the game at that point.

But the Fighting Maroons wouldn’t be stopped. UP staged a last gasp comeback. Diego Dario nailed a big jumper to cut the deficit down. Gomez De Liano then scored on an and-one fast break layup to cut the deficit further down to just two points. UP found the equalizer when Akhuetie got an offensive rebound off a Gomez De Liano miss and scored on a put back.

The Falcons took the lead back with less than a minute left after Jonathan Espeleta split his free throws. The Fighting Maroons then ran a well-executed play faking a JD Tungcab and Akhuetie pick-and-roll leaving Desiderio wide open for a three-pointer to take the lead back. The game wasn’t done yet. Lastimosa tied the count on the other end with two free throws to keep Adamson alive.

With the game on the line, UP put the ball in the hands of their captain, Desiderio. He called for a straight-up isolation against Sean Manganti with 13 seconds left in the game. He dribbled his way to the free throw line, faked a spin then got squared up to the basket. Desiderio then fired a jumper over Manganti that splashed in giving UP the lead.

The Falcons had a chance to win the game but Lastimosa’s three hit side iron. The Fighting Maroons completed their Final Four conquest and made it one step closer to the championship.