MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED) Three of the four spots in the UAAP Season 80 Final Four have been taken.
The Adamson University Soaring Falcons secured the No. 3 spot in the semifinals after crushing University of the Philippines (UP), 86-70, at the Araneta Coliseum on Sunday behind superb performances from Papi Sarr and Jerie Pingoy.
It was the Falcons' third win in a row, putting their record at 9-4 with one game to go in their elimination round schedule.
"I guess we exceeded our performance from last year," said Adamson coach Franz Pumaren, whose team won eight games in Season 79, in his first season in charge. "That's an improvement already."
"Our mentality is Final Four mode already," he added. "During this stretch, every game is important, and every game is a learning process for us, a learning experience for us."
Sarr was unstoppable for most of the game, as he scored 25 points on nine-of-14 shooting while also pulling down 17 rebounds. Pingoy submitted an all-around effort of 15 points, eight assists, and six steals without committing a single turnover in 25 minutes.
The Falcons seized control of the game completely in the third quarter, when they outscored UP, 30-19, behind the sniping of Pingoy and Jonathan Espeleta, and the post presence of Sarr. They built their biggest lead at 60-37, when Sarr's and-1 capped a 15-2 scoring burst in the third frame.
The Fighting Maroons made their final charge in the fourth period, when Paul Desiderio and Jun Manzo conspired to trim the lead to eight points, 66-74, with still five minutes left to play. Manzo, who had to leave the game in the third due to an ankle injury, provided a spark upon his return, while Desiderio fired a triple then completed a three-point play to highlight their run.
Unfortunately for UP, they did not come any closer. Adamson unleashed a 12-0 run, sparked by a transition bucket by Jerrick Ahanmisi off a turnover by Gelo Vito. By the time the dust settled, the Falcons rebuilt a massive 86-66 lead with under a minute left to play.
"We deserve it," said Sarr of their crucial victory. "We've been working hard for this."
Despite the blowout nature of the game, there was a tense atmosphere inside the Big Dome all throughout with UP fans heard hurling invectives at the referees during a break in action in the third frame. A UP fan was even escorted out of the patron area after he was caught throwing a balled-up piece of paper onto the court.
Desiderio led the Fighting Maroons with 20 points, while Manzo added 15 points. Javi Gomez de Liaño tallied a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds, but the Fighting Maroons missed the services of his young brother, top rookie Juan, who missed the game due to a sprained ankle.
To make matters worse, UP center Ibrahim Outtara had to exit the game with a little over four minutes as well as he suffered a sprain in his left ankle.
The Fighting Maroons dropped to 5-7, putting them one game behind Far Eastern University (6-6) for the last spot in the Final Four with two games left in their schedule.
ADAMSON 86 – Sarr 25, Pingoy 15, Ahanmisi 11, Manalang 10, Espeleta 8, Manganti 5, Ochea 4, Hill 4, Camacho 4, Lojera 0, Mustre 0, Bernardo 0, Paranada 0
UP 70 – Desiderio 20, Manzo 15, Gomez de Liano 10, Vito 6, Lim 4, Dario 3, Jaboneta 3, Webb 3, Ouattara 2, Romero 2, Lao 2, Harris 0, Prado 0
Quarter scores: 18-17, 39-31, 69-50, 86-70
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