ADAMSON University lived to fight another day, pulling off an epic 63-61 win against the also-ran but feisty University of the East (UE) to stay in the heated Final Four race of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 86 men’s basketball tournament yesterday (Nov. 19) at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Matthew Montebon drained the game-winning triple in the last 2.7 seconds as the Falcons soared to 7-7 at the end of the elimination round to catch reigning champion Ateneo de Manila University (7-7) and force a knockout match for the fourth and last semifinal ticket.
The playoff duel is set on Wednesday with the survivor completing the Final Four cast along with University of the Philippines, De La Salle University and National University, which placings are still to be determined pending the result of the final match as of press time.
Mr. Montebon, the Filipino-American rookie, fired four triples for 16 points, seven rebounds and two assists while Ced Manzano harvested a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds to spearhead the Soaring Falcons’ flight.
Vince Magbuhos (8) and Didat Hanapi (5) chipped in key contributions down the stretch as Adamson needed every star to align since the match of Ateneo and De La Salle on Saturday to gain a shot at the Final Four.
Adamson gained a lift from La Salle (11-3) first after its 72-69 win against Ateneo that dealt the latter its seventh loss and open a window of opportunity for Adamson, then at 6-7 — against the ever-dangerous UE.
“De La Salle took care of the first business and we have to care of the second. We almost did not do that. We’re here and that’s all we want — to get a crack in the Final Four,” said coach Nash Racela.
Adamson indeed nearly absorbed a disaster as UE, with pride and honor at stake despite already out of the race, refused to roll over and surrender.
The Soaring Falcons took control of the match with an early 10-point lead and appeared headed into an easy win to have a shot at the Blue Eagles anew before the Red Warriors, slowly but surely, mounted a comeback and even took the lead down the wire.
As Mr. Magbuhos split his freebies for a slim 60-58 Adamson cushion in the last 17.2 seconds, UE capitalized and got off to the races in transition to find Jack Cruz-Dumont at the right elbow for a booming trey that gave the Warriors a 61-60 lead.
But the Soaring Falcons had one last ace up their sleeves, drawing a play at the right baseline for Mr. Montebon who did not disappoint in drilling a huge trey of his own to keep them alive, soaring and roaring.
Adamson last season had the same path after knocking out De La Salle in the playoff to gatecrash the Final Four. Now, no less than Ateneo stands in the way and the Soaring Falcons are out to do it one more time.
“I think from the very beginning, that’s what we emphasize to our players that there’s no freebies in this world. We have to earn everything. You have to take it if you want it, so today, we thank UE for allowing us to do that. They didn’t give it to us in a silver platter,” added Mr. Racela.
Rey Remogat once again led the way with a near triple-double of 16 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists while Precious Momowei (15), in his return from suspension, and Mr. Cruz-Dumont chipped in 13. UE went down swinging for a 4-10 record. — John Bryan Ulanday
Adamson 63 – Montebon 16, Manzano 16, Magbuhos 10, Yerro 8, Hanapi 5, Ojarikre 3, Erolon 3, Barcelona 2, Colonia 0, Ramos 0, Barasi 0, Anabo 0.
UE 61 – Remogat 16, Momowei 15, Cruz-Dumont 13, Galang 5, Lingolingo 3, Tulabut 3, Gilbuena 3, Maglupay 2, Sawat 1, Langit 0, Alcantara 0, Spandonis 0.
Quarterscores: 16-16, 37-29, 45-47, 63-61.