by Waylon Galvez
University of the Philippines guard Paul Desiderio delivered big for the Fighting Maroons in their semifinal win against the Adamson Falcons in the 81st UAAP men’s basketball at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
It was only last year when Desiderio – during a team timeout – blurted the words “atin ‘to” (this is ours) and then made it happen by nailing a three-point shot against University of Santo Tomas to win a game.
Since then, it has become part of the school’s chants, and when the 5-foot-10 Desiderio buried a jump shot with 5.5 seconds left against Adamson, the entire UP community shouted in unison the now famous phrase that reverberated at the packed MOA arena.
“Atin ‘to,” said Desiderio with a smile when asked about his thoughts when he drilled in the tough fade away jumper from the left corner that gave the Maroons a 71-69 lead.
The twice-to-beat No. 2 Adamson was able to tie the score at 71-all after forward Sean Manganti converted a pair of free throws off a foul by Felix Jaboneta with 3.7 seconds to play.
That set up the winning play for UP.
Bright Akhuetie, the 6-foot-8 soon-to-be MVP of the tournament, caught a lob inbound pass from Juan Gomez de Liano and made a bank shot from the shaded area against two defenders with 2.6 seconds left.
However, none of that would have happened if not of Desiderio’s heroic clutch plays as he scattered 10 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter, all of which he scored in the second half.
“There’s just no question about it,” said UP mentor Bo Perasol of Desiderio’s performance. “The leadership, taking charge when it mattered most and doing the little details.”
“It’s inspiring for the team to see that, it makes you follow his lead,” added Perasol.
As a result of UP’s victory, the third seeded team will face off with Adamson again, this time for a finals slot as the Maroons and the Falcons clash on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.