The UP Fighting Maroons closed the men’s basketball tournament of UAAP Season 82 with a podium finish at third place. This after the UST Growling Tigers tore through UP’s second-seed twice-to-beat advantage in the stepladder semifinals to nab the finals berth. In its last UAAP match on November 13 at the MOA Arena, the Diliman squad lost to the team from España by three, 65-68.
UST started and held the lead, even by as much as 12, until UP’s Jun Manzo tied the game at 57, with less than six minutes left in the last quarter. The Fighting Maroons got its first lead, courtesy of Juan Gomez de Liaño’s basket. That lead was taken two points further by Ricci Rivero’s free throws, 61-57.
Then alternating fouls and baskets seesawed the UP lead from four to two to four. As the clock was approaching the last two minutes, Maroon captain Noah Webb fell to floor clutching his left knee after chasing down Mark Nonoy who had ball possession from across the court. No whistle was blown and the ball was still in play. He forced himself to get up and hopped on his right leg to get to the ball which was again in Nonoy’s hands. Webb was called for an unsportsmanlike foul, which Nonoy successfully converted, cutting down the UP lead to two, 63-61.
Seconds later, Kobe Paras smashed the rim with a highlight off a pass from Javi Gomez de Liaño, to put the UP lead back up to four, 65-61. This was later pushed down to two again through Rhenz Abando’s layup with 1:15 left.
But it was Tiger Renzo Subido’s three-pointer at the 24-second mark that turned back the Maroon lead, giving UST a narrow edge as the game clock winded down, 66-65. Two charities by Soulemane Chabi Yo at 4.4 seconds remaining clinched a three-point lead for UST, all the way to victory.
Season 82 marks the Fighting Maroons’ back-to-back final four appearances. They were at number three last year, going into the semifinal round, where they had to win against the second ranked Adamson Falcons twice. And win they did—snatching the finals spot, battling with the Ateneo Blue Eagles, and closing Season 81 with a silver finish.
Since the final four format was introduced in the UAAP in 1993, UP has only made two other appearances before last year: 1996 and 1997.
Fighting Maroons who have played their last UAAP season for UP are Janjan Jaboneta, Pio Longa, Jaybie Mantilla, Jun Manzo, Jerson Prado, and Jaydee Tungcab. Prado and Manzo have signed on to play in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League with Iloilo United Royals and Zamboanga Family’s Brand Sardines, respectively.
Paras, meanwhile, was included in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament Mythical Five, the awarding of which was held on November 20 at the MOA Arena.
As for Webb’s injury, he was later diagnosed with a meniscus tear. A torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) was initially suspected. “I’ll still need surgery but recovery time is only two to three months compared to [recovery from] an ACL tear, which is six to eight months,” he told this writer.