Despite a hard-fought and physical game, the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons ultimately fell short against defending champions Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) Blue Eagles, 79-87, today at the Araneta Coliseum.

The Diliman squad started strong led by Juan Gomez de Liano who scored 12 points in the first frame. The Fighting Maroons put consistent pressure on both the defensive and offensive end, but the Blue Eagles kept UP at bay, and after several deadlocks, UP trailed by three points in the first half, 43-46.

This, however, came to pass as the Fighting Maroons weren’t able to keep the momentum going as UP only scored 15 points in the third quarter and failed to capture the lead the entire second half.

The second half also saw emotions run high as Head coach Bo Perasol was ejected from the game following Bright Akhuetie’s hard fall after a dunk attempt.

Despite Perasol’s ejection, UP remained unfazed and outscored Ateneo in the fourth quarter led by Juan Gomez de Liano’s 11 points, as well as key contributions from Paul Desiderio and Diego Dario.

UP went on an 8-0 run towards the end of the fourth quarter, capped off by a Juan Gomez de Liano three which trimmed the Blue Eagles’ lead to five, 70-75.

Both teams traded buckets in the closing moments of the game, but Desiderio in a last ditch effort could only cut Ateneo’s lead to eight, score ended, 79-87.

Free throws turned out to be the deciding factor with UP only managing to nab four points off of free throws compared to Ateneo’s 26.

The loss came despite a career high from sophomore star Juan Gomez de Liano, who scored 29 points on 63% shooting while Desiderio added a cool 15 points, Akhuetie added 11 rebounds and 9 assists despite only scoring 8 points on 40% shooting.

Ateneo star guard Thirdy Ravena put up 17 points together with Anton Asistio who had 16 points.

On his ejection, “I had to apologize to them because i was the first one who lost it. No matter what happens, I think that I had to be accountable to them. No matter how bad the calls are going to be, it’s going to happen,” Perasol said. “I just had to be better as a coach. I had to make sure that I would be with them during those times.”

Despite the loss, Perasol remains proud of his team’s effort, saying “I have to commend my guys by fighting it over against a defending champion who wasn’t expected to lose in the first game.” He added, “I think that we made sure that we fought hard. I think we had the right attitude going into the game – it’s just that we lost the game going to the end.”

The loss puts UP at a record of 1-1. The Maroons hope to bounce back this Sunday, September 16, as they face the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers.

Photo by Clarizzah Tualla

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