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Fighting back to Maroons

Games Saturday
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
2 p.m. – La Salle vs UP
4 p.m. – NU vs UST

The usually-floundering University of the Philippines Maroons have suddenly become a Final Four contender.

After going 1-6 in the first round, the Maroons established themselves as the league’s giant killers after stunning the Adamson Falcons, 70-66, yesterday in the UAAP basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.

UP got big contributions from Jett Manuel, Paul Desiderio and rookie Javi Gomez de Liano in the second half to produce an impressive sequel to Saturday’s 56-52 win over Ateneo.

With two straight victories to open the second round, UP improved to 3-6 for solo sixth but 1 1/2 game behind National University and Ateneo, teams sharing third and fourth at 4-4.

This is something long suffering fans in Diliman have not expected after late-game struggles in the first seven games of the season.

“Katulad nga nung binanggit ko before, we’re better than our 1-6 record in the first round. It’s showing right now, not because we’re saying it, but I really believe that what we have right now is enough for us to be able to contend and compete every game against the tougher opponents,” said UP coach Bo Perasol.

The Maroons’ bid to make it three win in a row faces a stern test on Saturday when they face the unbeaten La Salle Green Archers on Saturday. Green Archers coach Aldin Ayo and his staff were interested observers as they tried to dissect the Maroons in the stands.

Papi Sarr had 18 points and 11 rebounds and Rob Mañalang added 10 points but Adamson left plenty to be desired after coming close to beating La Salle last Sunday.

The lousy showing, also marred by a scoreless outing by Jerrick Ahanmisi despite firing 28 in the 104-85 win over UP in the first round, sent Adamson to its second straight defeat while falling to fifth place at 4-5.

Manuel and Desiderio shared topscoring honors for the Maroons with 16 points, but Gomez de Liano had his coming out party in the win.

The 18-year-old Gomez de Liano, who stands at 6-foot-2 and plays the stretch four, produced 13 points, six rebounds and two steals in nearly 20 minutes of play.