MANILA - (UPDATED) University of the Philippines continues to have Adamson University's number.
Reigning Most Valuable Player Bright Akhuetie nailed two pressure-packed free throws with 2.8 seconds left to lift the Fighting Maroons to a hard-earned 83-82 triumph over the Soaring Falcons in the UAAP Season 82 men's basketball tournament on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Fighting Maroons, last season's runners-up, had to rally from seven points down with 2:22 left to play in overtime to claim their second win of the tournament.
It was a rematch of last season's Final 4, which saw the Maroons overcome Adamson's twice-to-beat advantage to make the Finals for the first time in over three decades. The second game of that semis series was an 89-87 overtime victory for UP.
"That was almost a lost opportunity for us, but my players, they just did not give up," said UP head coach Bo Perasol. "I just want to give honor to my players for not giving up."
The game saw the much-awaited UAAP debut of Kobe Paras, and he lived up to the hype by putting up 20 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal in 41 minutes of action. Akhuetie, playing through a sprained right ankle, finished with 18 points and 18 rebounds, while Juan Gomez de Liano had 12 points.
Gomez de Liano scored 10 of those points in the third quarter, helping UP rally from a 41-25 halftime deficit.
They led 52-50 heading into the fourth frame, and both teams would trade buckets in the payoff period with the Soaring Falcons seizing a 73-70 lead off two free throws by Jerom Lastimosa with 67 seconds to play. Adamson appeared to dodge a bullet when Gomez de Liano missed a three-pointer with 48 seconds to go, only for Lastimosa to commit a turnover in their next possession.
Javi Gomez de Liano would make them pay, as he connected on a triple that knotted the count with 17 seconds left. Adamson could not execute out of its final timeout, with Lastimosa settling for a three-pointer that hit iron as the time expired.
The Falcons took control in overtime thanks to Ap Manlapaz, who helped them surge to an 82-75 lead with 2:22 to play.
Once again, however, turnovers hounded the Falcons. After two charities by Akhuetie made it a five-point game, Lastimosa committed another turnover on a bad pass to Jerrick Ahanmisi. Paras would score on a lay-up on the other end, before UP's veteran guard, Jun Manzo, poached the ball off Ahanmisi for a lay-up that made it a one-point game, 82-81, with 35 seconds left.
The ensuing possession was chaotic, as Ahanmisi turned the ball over, only to make a counter-steal against Ricci Rivero. Neither was able to control the ball, however, and it wound up in the hands of Akhuetie who drew the fifth and final foul of Lenda Dounga with 2.8 ticks on the clock.
The Nigerian center coolly made both charities, and Rivero wound up blocking Lastimosa's triple attempt in their final possession to preserve the win.
Fil-Peruvian guard Val Chauca led Adamson with 21 points -- 15 of which came in a scintillating second quarter wherein he powered Adamson to a huge lead. Manlapaz had 17 points, while Dounga had 14 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out.
Lastimosa finished with 13 points, but also committed 6 turnovers. Ahanmisi was limited to 7 points on 3-of-11 shooting, and missed all six of his three-pointers.
The Fighting Maroons improved to 2-1 in the tournament, while the Soaring Falcons dropped to 2-2.
A crowd of 12,622 fans -- the most so far in Season 82 -- watched the game at MOA Arena.
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.
For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.