By Ged Austria
UP Fighting Maroons def. Adamson Soaring Falcons 73-71
Paul Desiderio, UP (19 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists)
Paul Desiderio was in his bag for this game. He was scoreless the 1st half but flipped the switch in the 2nd half, scoring all of his 19 points. Out of all the volume shooters in this game, he was the most efficient with 9/16 FGs (56%) with an all around game and a clutch basket by that briefly gave UP the lead late.
Juan Gomez De Liano, UP (19 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals)
Juan GDL, as expected, also had an all-around game for UP. He was the one who set the tone early and did the damage for UP which is why they got off to a quick start in the 1st Q. Give him credit for keeping the boat afloat for UP. He already had 14 points by halftime, which was already half of the team’s points then.
Bright Akhuetie, UP (6 points, 14 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 Game Winner)
Bright may not look like he had a superb game if you base it on the stats. But he did have a good game, he only had 6 points but on only 5 attempts. Played great in his role in rebounding and defense, which was a compliment to both Juan and Paul who did most of the damage.
Papi Sarr, Adamson (23 points, 9 rebounds)
Papi was the lone “bright” (This was a good one – ed.) spot for AdU. He was the primary reason why Adamson kept close in this game. While everyone else was missing shots, he was cleaning up from the inside and dominating it.
Sean Manganti, Adamson (15 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists)
Sean had a sub-par game by his standards, but he was the 2nd best player for Adamson this game. 10 of his 15 points came in the 4th quarter, which actually sparked the AdU run and kept the game close by the end. The effort wasn’t enough though.
- Coming into the 1st Final 4 match for this UAAP season, we expected it to be a slugfest even from the beginning, and it did not disappoint. It was no surprise since it felt like both teams had a chip on their shoulder and they had something to prove. Adamson had already been in this position before, with the twice to beat advantage, but twice beaten by the FEU Tamaraws in Season 74. We expected them to not led history repeat itself. Meanwhile, UP was also hungry for a win. After not seeing the Final 4 for two decades, they obviously didn’t want to stop there and would love to continue in what has developed into a Cinderella run this season.
- The game started off with UP getting a slight lead. Both teams were clearly aggressive and very physical but it seemed like there were playoffs jitters for both teams to begin the game. Both teams were making unnecessary errors and unforced turnovers the entire 1st half. Shots were also being missed, although the great defense played by both teams has to be given credit as well. The entire 1st half was a little ugly to watch in terms of execution. Most of the buckets came from fastbreaks, transitions, or free throws. But the half court sets for both teams didn’t look that good and plainly because of either good defense or they simply weren’t making shots.
- While the entire 1st half was a see-saw battle and a slugfest, the 2nd half was a story of runs. UP came in hot in the 3rd quarter and mostly sparked by Desiderio and Javi GDL, who scored 9 points each and played the entire quarter. They even had their biggest lead in the game with 13 points. Just as when you thought UP was about to pull away, Adamson made their counter-run in the 4th quarter with Manganti scoring 10 of his 15 points, and Papi with 7 just to keep them in the game. It was another nail-biter ending where there were clutch buckets after buckets but ultimately ended with a Bright Akhuetie game-winner. Coach Bo had a great set-up for him which is eerily similar to the famous Doug Kramer game-winner from SLOB against UST in the Season 69 Finals.
- It was quite an uncharacteristic game for Adamson since it looked like UP handled the ball better than AdU when people would expect that it’s the other way around. We all know AdU is a pressing team, but they had more turnovers than UP. UP clearly capitalized by converting 23 fastbreak points, compared to AdU’s only 16. UP did a great job of weathering the storm of AdU’s press and their late run in the 4th Q.
- For Adamson, it’s just one of those games where they couldn’t seem to buy a shot. Out of 22 attempts from the arc, AdU only made 1, and it was a clutch bucket by Ahanmisi. Papi Sarr was cleaning off their misses and was the only efficient player from AdU with 8/12 FGs, mainly because all his shots came from the paint. Other than that, nobody else was hitting shots and the rest of the team was just 16/56, 28% in the entire game. They were completely struggling from the outside and we also have to give credit to UP’s defense. Adamson had shot ZERO open shots during the course of the game, while UP had three open shots and they were able to convert all three. Again this looked a little unusual because it seemed that UP was the better defensive team and handled the ball better than AdU, which was usually the identity of a Pumaren-coached team.
- This was a great game from start to finish. There were lots of lead changes and deadlocks from the start and then a game of runs to end it. It did not disappoint and will surely be remembered not just by UP fans but any avid basketball fan. AdU didn’t have enough in this game, but their work in the elims paid off by granting them a twice-to-beat advantage. That is exactly the reason why they have that, it’s for the kinds of games like this where they seem very uncharacteristic for their identity. So it’s their time and their chance to regroup and correct their lapses come Game 2. Meanwhile, UP definitely has a boosted morale on Wednesday. It’s a do or die, and all the fans can’t wait.