MANILA - They may have ended up on the losing end of a thrilling overtime game, but Adamson University rookie Ap Manlapaz was encouraged by his strong performance for the Soaring Falcons in the game.
Adamson absorbed a stinging 83-82 defeat to University of the Philippines on Sunday to drop to 2-2 in the UAAP Season 82 men's basketball tournament. It was a particularly painful loss as the Falcons had been ahead by 7 points, 82-75, with just 2:22 to go in the extra period.
Manlapaz, a rookie from Adamson's juniors program, played a big role in getting their seven-point spread. He completed an and-1, then drilled a three-pointer, before veteran Jerom Lastimosa scored in transition to pad their lead.
That advantage evaporated in the face of a furious last-minute rally by UP, however, capped by two charities from Bright Akhuetie with 2.8 ticks to go.
"Nakulangan lang ng puso noong huli, parang nag-break down 'yung mga veterans namin," said Manlapaz.
Indeed, Adamson's veteran guards, Lastimosa and Jerrick Ahanmisi, committed a spate of turnovers in the final minute that fueled UP's run. Akhuetie's free throws came after a chaotic possession that saw Ahanmisi turn the ball over, get a steal, and then lose possession anew, leading UP's Nigerian center to finally control the ball and draw a foul from Adamson's Lenda Dounga.
"Pero 'yun nga," added Manlapaz. "Sabi ni coach, mahaba pa naman 'yung season so pwede pa kami makabawi."
Manlapaz is also heartened by his solid game, having finished with 17 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, a block, and a steal in 22 minutes of action. Before this game, he had scored just four points in his senior career -- all of which came in their first game against the Ateneo de Manila University. He was scoreless against National University and University of the East, before breaking out today against UP.
"Wala namang instruction sa akin kasi parang noong last games, wala akong napapakita sa team, kaya gusto ko talaga bumawi sa game na 'yun kaya ayun, parang nagkusa na lang," the 19-year-old said of his overtime heroics.
"Masaya naman, kasi parang malaki 'yung tiwala nila sa akin, kaya gusto ko talagang may maipakita ako sa kanila sa laro ko," he added.
It wasn't all just on offense, too. Manlapaz's lone block of the game came at the expense of Akhuetie, the reigning UAAP MVP.
"Sabi ni (coach), wala namang malas sa depensa," he said. "Gusto ko lang ipakita sa kanya na may defense din ako."
According to coach Franz Pumaren, he has been trying to motivate the young player in practice, knowing that he was "under the radar" as a high school player.
"I told him what he needs to do to make it here in the senior level, because the kid's really talented," said Pumaren. "During probably his high school days, he was just an underachiever."
With a breakout game under his belt, Manlapaz feels confident that he can keep it up.
"Ngayon, nagi-start na ma-boost 'yung confidence ko sa mga darating pa na games namin," he said.
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