KOBE Paras proved to be good as advertised in his debut but it was reigning MVP Bright Akhuetie who saved University of the Philippines from the jaws of defeat yesterday.
The 6-foot-8 Akhuetie canned two pressure-packed free throws in the last 2.8 ticks as the Fighting Maroons carved out a breathtaking 83-82 decision over the Adamson University Soaring Falcons in overtime to get back on track in the 82nd UAAP basketball tournament before a big crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Adamson had a chance to steal the win but Jerome Lastimosa’s last-gasp triple try was foiled by UP’s stingy defense at the buzzer.
The 6-foot-6 Paras, who moved to the Maroons from US NCAA Division I school Cal State Northridge, wound up with 20 points and six rebounds while Akhuetie notched a double-double of 18 and 18.
Juan Gomez De Liano also chipped in 12 markers, five boards, and four assists as UP improved to 2-1 for solo third. The Falcons slipped to 2-2.
The win, which was played before 12,622 fans, avenged the Maroons’ embarrassing 69-85 loss to University of Santo Tomas last Sept. 7.
Adamson was coming off a 91-80 triumph over University of the East also last Sept. 7.
In the other game, University of Santo Tomas turned back a hard-luck National University side 87-74 in overtime for its third win.
Six-foot-6 Beninese reinforcement Soulemane Chabi Yo led the Growling Tigers with game-bests of 23 points and 21 rebounds while rookie forward Rhenz Abando chipped in 21 markers, including two backbreaking triples in the extension, and pulled down six caroms, and issued two feeds.
Sherwin Concepcion, another rookie, also had 13 points for UST, which improved to 3-1 and handed the Bulldogs another painful defeat for a 0-3 slate.
The win also made up for the Tigers’ sorry 70-71 setback at the hands of defending two-time champion Ateneo last Sept. 11.
“We want to thank the Lord for the opportunity because we almost lost the opportunity but our players like Kobe (Paras), Bright (Akhuetie), David (Murrell), James (Spencer), and everybody, they did not just give up,” said UP coach Bo Perasol.
“There is really something that we really want to inculcate to our team right now. In the last few games we were just watching each other,” he added.
The Falcons took a 41-25 spread at the half and led by as much as 43-25 on a Jerrick Ahanmisi layup at the 9:45 mark of the third canto.
Down big but not out, the Maroons razed the difference and grabbed a 52-50 cushion going into the payoff period.
Lastimosa buried two charities that made it 73-70 with 1:07 left in the fourth.
But Javi Gomez De Liano sent the match into extension with a three-pointer in the last 17.5 seconds of the fourth.
Adamson got off to a hot start and led 82-75 on a Lastimosa basket at the 2:22 mark of OT but UP banked on an 8-0 blitz windup to pull the rug from under the Falcons.