It’s another nail-biter, one-point lead win for the UP Fighting Maroons against the winless NU Bulldogs, just days after Adamson’s Soaring Falcons suffered the same fate in the previous game. The Mall of Asia Arena filled with a majority of maroon-wearing audience bore witness to this back-to-back victory on September 18 that moves the UP Men’s Basketball Team to the second spot in the men’s basketball first round standings.
UP fought a hard game to defeat NU, as the Bulldogs were determined to bag its first win by starting off the first quarter with a 5-point lead. Coming back in the second quarter in a more aggressive play, the Fighting Maroons scored 44 points, an 8-point lead ahead of the Bulldogs’ 36 points with the help of UP Forward Javi Gomez De Liaño firing consistent 3-pointers in the quarter. And in the third quarter, the Fighting Maroons maintained an 8-point lead with 67 points against 59 points by NU’s Bulldogs.
Until the game reached the fourth quarter, NU’s Dave Ildefonso redeemed the team from UP’s continued 10-point lead by closing in a one-point deficit at 74-71, with 3:27 left in the final stretch. The next ball maneuvers got even more intense with a shooting streak coming from Akhuetie and Paras making UP maintain the lead with 78-71.
A nail-biter finish was just in order when NU’s Enzo Joson and Dave Ildefonso responded with their sure-fire buckets to close the gap with only 4 points behind, 78-74 at 32.3 seconds. Akhuetie’s free throw recovery of his missed charities against Ildefonso’s freebies and solid three-pointer all led to a heart stopper one-point lead by the Fighting Maroons, 80-79 with 11.6 ticks left.
The game clincher was the foul called out on Ildefonso that sent UP Forward David Murrell to the free throw line. However, he missed his 2-point free throw opportunity. As NU favored the last draw to the goal, John Lloyd Clemente failed to cash in the bucket. Akhuetie swiftly charged for ball possession as the buzzer called off the game.
Fighting Maroons’ new hotshot and player of the game Kobe Paras firing his power dunk. Video by Stephanie Cabigao, UP MPRO.
Just a day before his birthday, UP’s hotshot Kobe Paras made a back-to-back win for the Fighting Maroons, performing better than his first run, with 25 points, six rebounds, two assists, and two highlight dunks.
Other top scorers of the game were UP’s MVP Bright Akhuetie who delivered 19 points and 12 rebounds, and Javi Gomez De Liaño with 17 points and two rebounds.
At the post-game’s press conference, UP Fighting Maroons Coach Bo Perasol emphasized their need to break the one-point victory habit. “We need to learn how to close out games as a team, but that’s the process,” he said. “I know we can, there were just lapses but we are going to learn from that.”