MANILA, Philippines – A pair of crucial calls in the fourth quarter may have hampered University of the Philippines' attempt to hand Ateneo de Manila University its first loss of UAAP Season 80.
The Fighting Maroons were right there in the game, having clawed their way back from a 12-point hole in the fourth quarter. An 11-0 run anchored by the Gomez de Liaño brothers allowed UP to tie the count at 79 with still 4:11 left to play.
In the next possession, however, they were stunned when starting point guard Jun Manzo was whistled for a foul against Ateneo's Jolo Mendoza, who was having trouble crossing the half-court line. UP coaches pointed animatedly at the shot-clock: there were only 15 seconds left, meaning Mendoza had committed a back-court violation.
The call was not reversed, and Mendoza trooped to the line to knock down what turned out to be the go-ahead free throws. Ateneo went on to extend their lead to five points, 87-82, but UP still had a chance with under two minutes left to play.
That was when they found themselves on the receiving end of yet another crucial call. Manzo was called for a reaching foul on Matt Nieto; it was his fifth of the game, and it sent Nieto to the line for two more freebies. UP would not threaten again, and Ateneo went on to claim a 96-82 win, the Blue Eagles' 13th of the season.
The calls left Manzo scratching his head after the game.
"Ang labo," he said of the non-call on Mendoza's back-court violation. "Siyempre nawala na 'yung bola sa kanya, so dinive ko. Pero feeling ko bad call talaga 'yun, dahil shot clock na rin, eight seconds."
He felt that the missed call shifted momentum to Ateneo's way for good. "Breaks of the game eh. Kung sa amin yung bola siguro magiiba na yung laro. Nung nakuha nila yung bola, naka shoot sila eh kaya tuloy tuloy yung momentum nila," said Manzo.
His fifth foul was similarly confusing. "Hindi ko alam eh, hindi ko control," he said. "Noong una, siya nga nag-initiate ng contact eh, so parang ang labo. Tapos ako pa 'yung foul."
"Ang labo talaga," he said again.
UP coach Bo Perasol agreed that the missed eight-second violation on Mendoza was an especially crucial call, but also pointed out that the Fighting Maroons cannot use that as an excuse.
"You cannot delve into that," he said. "It's something that was decided on, and they can't reverse that."
"We have to find a way, how we can play through that," he stressed.
Manzo himself is not dwelling too much on the calls.
"Wala tayong magagawa, kasi ganoon 'yung tawag eh," he said. "'Yun ang trabaho ng referee. Bigay na natin sa kanila."
Make no mistake, however. Even as Perasol refused to blame the calls for their costly loss, he also requested that the referees be more judicious next time.
"I'm hoping the officials will do a better job, kasi nag-e-exert kami ng effort to find a way to win," he said.
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