Lastimosa leads way as Adamson outlasts La Salle, clinches Final 4 spot

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 04 2022 08:46 PM | Updated as of Dec 04 2022 09:41 PM

The De La Salle University (DLSU) and Adamson University (ADU) battle for the last slot of the UAAP season 85 men's basketball finals in Pasay City on December 4, 2022. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN New
The Adamson Soaring Falcons celebrate after ousting the De La Salle Green Archers in their do-or-die game in UAAP Season 85 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City on December 4, 2022.Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN New

MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) Jerom Lastimosa was unstoppable, and the Adamson Soaring Falcons made the big plays down the stretch to stun De La Salle University, 80-76, in their knockout game on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

It was a come-from-behind victory for the Soaring Falcons, who trailed by as much as 13 points but came alive in the third quarter. They went on to out-play La Salle down the stretch, thus sealing their spot in the Final 4 of the UAAP Season 85 men's basketball tournament. 

This is Adamson's first Final 4 appearance since Season 81, in what was Lastimosa's first year with the Soaring Falcons. They will be up against the top-seeded Ateneo Blue Eagles who will be armed with a twice-to-beat advantage. 

"We're happy to be in the Final 4. We're actually gate-crashing the Final 4. People didn't expect us to be here," said Adamson coach Nash Racela, whose team was 4-6 midway through the second round before a late three-game winning streak propelled them back into contention. 

"I'm happy that the team did their part to be in this situation. We'll check our emotions, because we don't want to be on a high because may trabaho pa," he added.

Adamson looked headed for an exit in the tournament after trailing 48-38 at the half; they had few answers for Evan Nelle who already had 13 points and six assists in the first half of the contest.

But Lastimosa was undeterred. The guard -- still playing through a right foot injury -- scored 11 points in a blistering stretch to erase the Archers' lead. He capped his personal run by making two of three free throws for a 57-56 advantage with 2:48 left in the period -- the first time in the game that Adamson went ahead.

La Salle managed to overtake the Falcons, 60-59, off an Aaron Buensalida bucket to head into the fourth with the lead. It paved the way for a nervy finish where neither team could retain their momentum. The Green Archers looked as though they would take control of the game after back-to-back baskets by CJ Austria put them ahead, 71-67, with under five minutes left.

But Lastimosa found Didat Hanapi for a booming three-pointer with three minutes to go that made it a one-point game, and Hanapi later knocked down two free throws for a 72-71 Adamson lead with 2:37 to play. 

La Salle last took the lead when Ben Phillips nailed a corner three-pointer for a 74-72 count, before Joshua Yerro's split at the line made it a one-point game with under two minutes left. A floater by Lenda Douanga -- off a Lastimosa assist -- gave Adamson the lead for good, 75-74, with 90 seconds to go, and Cedrick Manzano made it a three-point game with a reverse layup with just under a minute left.

Adamson appeared to have sealed the game when Joem Sabandal forced a turnover on Mark Nonoy with 19.2 seconds to go, but his ensuing inbound pass was mishandled by Lastimosa, leading to a Nelle layup that made it a one-point game, 77-76, with still 15.4 seconds left.

Lastimosa was cool under pressure, however. Put on the line by Nelle with 12 seconds left, he calmly knocked down two charities for a 79-76 count. Nelle badly misfired on a three-pointer in the ensuing La Salle possession, and Yerro's split at the line was enough to seal the deal and send the Adamson crowd into a frenzy.

"Andito na kami sa Final 4," said Lastimosa. "So i-grab namin 'tong opportunity na 'to and focus on the next game."

Yerro finished with 13 points, and AP Manlapaz added 11 for the Soaring Falcons. 

For La Salle, it was a bitter defeat as they played without three key contributors -- Schonny Winston, Michael Phillips, and Kevin Quiambao. Nelle had 22 points, seven assists, and four rebounds -- but also committed seven turnovers in the second half.

Mark Nonoy had 15 points and Austria finished with 11 in the losing effort. 
The Scores:

ADAMSON 80 -- Lastimosa 22, Yerro 13, Manlapaz 11, Douanga 10, Manzano 8, Sabandal 8, Jaymalin 3, Hanapi 2, Flowers 2, Torres 1, V. Magbuhos 0, Colonia 0, Barasi 0, Fuentebella 0.

LA SALLE 76 -- Nelle 22, Nonoy 15, B. Phillips 11, Austria 11, Cortez 10, Abadam 3, Macalalag 2, Buensalida 2, Estacio 0, Nwankwo 0, Manuel 0.

Quarters: 20-27, 38-48, 59-60, 80-76.