MANILA - Veteran point guard Jun Manzo was not about to let University of the Philippines (UP) suffer another costly defeat in the UAAP Season 82 men's basketball tournament.
The Fighting Maroons entered their game against Adamson in a precarious position. They were at 6-4, in the thick of the race for the second seed. A defeat would put them half a game behind University of Santo Tomas, and within reach of Far Eastern University.
It seemed as though they were headed that way in the fourth quarter, when Adamson posted a 72-60 advantage. But Manzo rallied the Fighting Maroons, sparking the 16-2 run that gave them the lead, 76-74, with 2:20 to go. The guard had 7 points in the run, including the go-head basket.
Adamson would momentarily regain control, before a Kobe Paras triple gave UP the lead for good. They went on to claim an 81-77 win, and Manzo was visibly emotional at the result of the game.
"Kasi, iniisip namin ngayon kung matalo pa kami, baka wala na kaming chance na maging No. 2," explained Manzo, as they improved to 7-4 and gained solo second in the league standings.
"Ma-sweep man ng Ateneo, mahihirapan na kami, kasi maglalaban ulit yung 3 and 4. So inisip lang namin na parang ito yung susi para makabalik ulit kami sa Finals," he added.
Thus, Manzo was vocal in letting his teammates know that they could not let up as they chased at Adamson's lead.
"Sinabi ko lang sa kanila na, 'Pre, wag tayong mag-relax.' Kasi yung sa UST, mga one minute lamang kami apat, so nag-relax kami," said Manzo.
The guard was referring to their 84-78 defeat to UST last Wednesday, wherein they led 78-74 with just over a minute left, then surrendered a 10-0 run to the Growling Tigers. That win kept UST in the hunt for the second seed.
"Sayang," Manzo said of that game. "Inisip ko lang na hindi ulit mangyari yun."
Manzo finished with 17 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal, and was praised by UP coach Bo Perasol for his performance -- especially in the closing stretch of the game.
"He badly wanted to win this game," Perasol said of Manzo. "It's just proper to honor him with a very good game, also."
"Napakaganda ng pinakita niya. Not only his scoring, but his leadership inside, his calmness that gave his other teammates the composure to end the game," he added.
Though they now have the inside track on the second seed, it is by no means a guarantee for the Fighting Maroons. They still have three games left in their elimination round schedule -- National University, La Salle, and a Finals rematch with Ateneo.
All three are must-wins for UP if they hope to fend off UST and FEU in the race for the other twice-to-beat edge in the Final 4.
"Tatratuhin namin na parang ngayon, parang last game na talaga namin," Manzo said of their remaining games. "Kasi, kailangan talaga, makapasok ulit sa Finals. Yun yung pangarap namin eh."
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