It was a Sunday of runs and rallies until the clock stopped ticking.
In their second round opener of the UAAP men’s basketball on October 6 at the MOA Arena, the UP Fighting Maroons challenged the Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws, but were not able to survive the attack in overtime, 82-79.
The scenario was reminiscent of the teams’ meeting last season in the first round. UP was without Head Coach Bo Perasol, who was suspended, following his ejection from a previous game with Ateneo. The Fighting Maroons were supposed to face the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers, but the match was postponed due to bad weather, so that Perasol served his suspension in UP’s next game versus FEU. The Maroons lost to the Tams by 16 points, 73-89.
This time, the Morayta squad was looking to avenge its first round loss to UP, while the team from Diliman was on a “We BOlieve” campaign for their head coach, wanting to notch another win and strengthen its hold on the second spot.
FEU started off strong, making 18 points and limiting UP points to five. But the last four minutes of the first quarter saw a 12-0 run, with Kobe Paras putting in eight and Bright Akhuetie making four. Four of Paras’s points were from his slick back-to-back snatches, one of which resulted in a flawless back and forth with Jaydee Tungcab into a highlight jam. At the end of the first 10-minute rollercoaster ride, the Fighting Maroons were behind by only a point, 17-18.
The second quarter saw UP taking the lead by three after baskets from Javi Gomez de Liaño and Tungcab less than three minutes in. But FEU was relentless, going toe-to-toe and shooting two consecutive hoops from beyond the arc courtesy of Wendell Comboy and Ken Tuffin. It was attack and counter-attack from then on, with UP ending the second quarter three points down, 27-30.
Tungcab’s three-pointer tied the game at the beginning of the second half, which Tamaraw Xyrus Torres answered with a three, followed by LJ Gonzales’s three-point play off Maroon Juan Gomez de Liaño’s foul. Akhuetie and Javi Gomez de Liaño banked four more for UP and FEU retaliated with 11 straight points, stretching its lead to 13. Paras sank two, but the Tamaraws gored through the Maroon defense and marked the biggest lead in the game at 19. The third quarter closed with UP trailing by 17, 43-60.
Going into the fourth quarter, the Fighting Maroons chipped away at the deficit, and less than two minutes in, were able to reduce the gap to ten. Sensing another Maroon surge and wanting to nip it quick, the Tams drove its lead to 16 with six minutes left in regulation.
Comboy’s foul on Paras less than five minutes remaining started the Maroon comeback that FEU was unable to answer. Paras made one of two charities and an inside shot. Juan Gomez de Liaño sank a three. Akhuetie also sank one of two from the line, plus a putback off Ricci Rivero’s attempt and a bonus free throw. Paras again secured two free throws and scored from the perimeter. It was Javi Gomez de Liaño’s steal, drive, and shoot that locked the game at 69. With 24.7 seconds remaining and the ball in FEU’s possession, Comboy received the inbound from Gonzales, dribbled the 24-second shot clock down, and made his move with a step-back from the arc with three seconds left to shoot. The ball was in and out.
The Tamaraws asserted themselves at the start of extra time, making five points from two field goals within the first two minutes. Javi Gomez de Liaño shot three for UP, but then Comboy also sank three for FEU. Juan Gomez de Liaño banked three from the line after he was fouled by Gonzales. Akhuetie added two in the paint to tie the game at 77 with 1:05 left. But sharp-shooting FEU forward, Tuffin, who had only missed one of his five three-point attempts, bagged another basket from the arc to take the lead for the Tamaraws.
It was one against three as Javi Gomez de Liaño drove through the Tamaraw defense of Gonzales, Pat Tchuente, and Torres, for two inside points to trim the FEU lead to one with 34 seconds left in overtime. And Comboy again replied with a perimeter basket 16 seconds later. The Tamaraws tightened their defense with Torres leaving little wiggle room for Javi Gomez de Liaño, who had to shoot a three as the shot clock was winding down to the last three seconds. But the ball was a bit off to the left and bounced. Five seconds later, the buzzer signaled the end of the game.
The UP Fighting Maroons are set to face the University of the East Red Warriors next on October 12, 4:00pm, at the MOA Arena.