MANILA, Philippines – Sean Manganti came oh-so-close to once again breaking the hearts of the Fighting Maroons and the entire University of the Philippines (UP) community on Saturday.
The Adamson University forward scored 10 points in the fourth quarter of their UAAP Season 81 Final 4 game, including two clutch free throws with just three seconds left to tie the game at 71.
This time, however, it was UP that stunned Manganti and the Soaring Falcons. Bright Akhuetie nailed the game-winning lay-up with just 2.6 seconds left, and JanJan Jaboneta blocked Jonathan Espeleta's three-pointer at the buzzer to seal their 73-71 triumph.
It was the first time that UP had beaten Adamson since the second round of UAAP Season 79. It could not have come at a better time, as the Fighting Maroons forced a do-or-die game for the second and last spot in the best-of-3 finals.
Manganti, for his part, could only tip his cap to the UP team.
"You know, we're disappointed," said the Adamson veteran, who struggled for most of the game and only got going in the fourth period.
"But you have to give them credit. They came out strong, they had a great game, and they made some clutch baskets," he added. "So you gotta give it to them, you gotta respect them."
Manganti has made a habit of hitting big shots against UP, starting in Season 80 when he nailed a game-winning putback at the buzzer for a 73-71 triumph over the Fighting Maroons. In their first round encounter of Season 81, he again came up with the game-winner for a 69-68 triumph.
He did not hit a buzzer-beater in their second round game, but he did fire up the clutch three-pointer in the final minute that sealed Adamson's 80-72 victory.
On Saturday, he helped the Falcons come back from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter, only to fall short in the end as UP gave Adamson a dose of its own medicine.
"They just made a run, and it was a really strong run," Manganti said. "We didn't give up, we held our own, so we came back. But we still lost it."
Manganti was still proud of their effort, noting that they clawed all the way back and even took a late lead in the fourth period, before the Fighting Maroons surged ahead once more.
"We commend our team for still playing hard and showing that we can come back even though we were down," he said. "You know, we just want to stay together. That's the good part – you can really see that we never give up, and that's really the best part about our team."
"We never give up," he stressed.
Manganti and the Soaring Falcons have one more chance to clinch their first finals appearance since 1992 on Wednesday, when they face off against UP in a do-or-die game.
"We need to look at our defensive schemes," Manganti said when asked what they need to improve on. "We had Bright go for six points, so that's a plus side. Papi (Sarr) was doing his job, (but) us guards got killed by Juan (Gomez de Liano) and Paul (Desiderio)."
Game time between Adamson and UP is at 3:30 at the Araneta Coliseum.
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