By: Raphael Rayco
MANILA – The Fighting Maroons fail to pull off an upset today against the Blue Eagles, 69-70, after guard Mikee Reyes missed supposed game-winning free throws in the 77th season of the UAAP Mens’ Basketball at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
Trailing by eight at the beginning of the final canto, the Diliman-based team relied on Mikee Reyes who scored 15 of his game-high 19 points in the final frame.
With 2:11 ticks left in the game, JR Gallarza, who scored a total of 18 markers in the game, sank two free throws to inch the team closer, 66-70.
Reyes buried a trey from the top of the arc with 1:04 left in the clock, putting the team two points away from grabbing the lead.
The Maroons came up with crucial defensive stops including a steal by Gallarza and an offensive foul by Ateneo power forward Arvin Tolentino to Batang Gilas Diego Dario.
Dario, however, wasn’t able to connect with a contested high looper under the basket with a little over ten seconds left.
With both teams in penalty, UP quickly fouled Kiefer Ravena, who afterwards missed both shots from the stripe, left a window open for the Maroons to grab the win.
Veteran guard Reyes, however, missed what would have been a pair of game winning free throws after being fouled by Chris Newsome in the act of shooting with 0.8 seconds left in the game.
“You can say that I exploded in the fourth or na ako ‘yung nagdala (or that I carried the team), but at the end of the day, it’s the two free throws [e],” Reyes said. “It’s on me, no one else.”
Meanwhile, UP Head Coach Rey Madrid praised Reyes’s heroics for carrying the team to within a single point against the Katipunan-based squad.
“I cannot even put burden on Mikee for missing those shots,” said Madrid. “He was the one who brought us there. There’s no question about his toughness and his willingness to win.”
Ateneo Head Coach Bo Perasol, who used all 16 players in their roster, said he wasn’t happy with how they won.
“I have spoken about how UP had improved a lot in this second round,” Perasol, a UP alumnus, said. “The fact is that a lot of us were thinking that we can just coast against them. That’s why we didn’t expect that they are going to come back against us.”
Kiefer Ravena was the high man for the Eagles as he tallied 18 points, seven of which were from free throws. He also dished seven assists and grabbed five rebounds.
After the loss, UP holds a 1-11 card with two games left for the season.
The Diliman-based squad will next go up against the NU Bulldogs at the SMART Araneta Coliseum on Sunday.