MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 2) Juan Gomez de Liano came through with a stunning shot in the dying seconds to power University of the Philippines (UP) past De La Salle University, 72-71, in the UAAP Season 82 men's basketball tournament on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The former Rookie of the Year intercepted a pass by La Salle's Aljun Melecio, raced to the other end of the court, then pulled up for the go-ahead three-pointer with 7.8 seconds left to give the Fighting Maroons the lead for good.
A three-pointer by Andrei Caracut, and a last-ditch toss by Joaqui Manuel went nowhere for La Salle, giving the Fighting Maroons their fourth straight win. UP improved to 5-1 heading into their highly anticipated finals rematch with Ateneo de Manila University on Sunday.
Kobe Paras shot only 4-of-19 from the field, but made 13 of 14 free throws to finish with 21 points along with 2 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks, and an assist. Reigning MVP Bright Akhuetie had 17 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals, before fouling out with 49 seconds left.
Gomez de Liano finished with 10 points and 5 rebounds in the win.
"My team is just like leading a chariot with wild stallions," said UP coach Bo Perasol after the game. "Another one goes to the right, another one goes to the left, another one goes to the middle."
"But come winning time, they got their acts together," he added.
La Salle led by as much as 13 points in the game, and were ahead by 7 points, 59-52, heading into the payoff period.
A pair of charities by Paras knotted the count at 61 with 8:12 left, but Caracut drilled a triple to take the lead back for La Salle, and the Green Achers were able to hold off the Maroons until a putback by Akhuetie off a Paras miss again tied the game at 67, this time with just 3:05 left.
Again, however, La Salle drilled a big three-pointer in response. This time, it was Aljun Melecio who fired the shot, and the Green Archers got breaks when Paras missed a three-pointer and a lay-up in back-to-back possessions, before fouling Justine Baltazar who went 1-of-2 for a 71-67 advantage.
A pair of charities by Paras with 1:16 left made it a one-possession game, and the Green Archers blew a chance to pad their lead when Jamie Malonzo bricked both free throws with 49.1 seconds to go. Those miscues turned out costly, even after La Salle strung together some stops with Paras, Gomez de Liano, and Jun Manzo all missing close-range attempts.
Those misses just set up Gomez de Liano's heroics, as the guard intercepted Melecio's pass before pulling up for the game-winner.
"I didn't have any doubt in my mind, when he was bringing the ball down that he was going to go for the three-point shot," Perasol said of Gomez de Liano.
"I was 100% sure he will take the 3-point shot, and Juan is Juan so he made it in the end," he added.
"I'm really glad I made the right decision," said Gomez de Liano, for his part.
UP shot just 31.43% from the field, but made the most of their trips to the line as they went 24-of-26 on free throws.
Meanwhile, it was a sorry loss for the Green Archers who could not execute in their final possession of the game, and instead absorbed their fourth loss of the season to drop to 2-4. They are currently tied with Far Eastern University for fifth and sixth places in the league standings.
Caracut and Melecio each scored 16 points, while Baltazar had 13 points and 9 rebounds before fouling out with 1:16 to play.
UP 72 - Paras 21, Akhuetie 17, Gomez de Liano Ju 10, Rivero 9, Manzo 5, Tungcab 5, Webb 3, Jaboneta 2, Gob 0, Gomez de Liano Ja 0, Murrell 0, Prado 0, Spencer 0
LA SALLE 71 - Caracut 16, Melecio 16, Baltazar 13, Bartlett 8, Malonzo 7, Manuel 5, Serrano 4, Lojera 2, Bates 0, Cu 0
Quarter scores: 14-18, 29-36, 52-59, 72-71
For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.