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MANILA, Philippines – The Adamson Soaring Falcons lived to fight another day amid floundering UAAP Final Four hopes after stunning the second-ranked NU Bulldogs, 68-62, at the Mall of Asia Arena on Wednesday, November 15.
Didat Hanapi led the balanced attack with 13 points and 6 rebounds, while Monty Montebon and Ced Manzano scored 12 apiece as Adamson stayed in contention with a 6-7 record.
The Falcons, however, hope No. 3 La Salle beats No. 4 Ateneo on Saturday, November 18, before winning their final assignment against also-ran UE on Sunday, November 19. Only then can Adamson force a fourth-seed playoff against the defending champion Blue Eagles to complete its Final Four quest.
Clearly in desperate need of a win with their semifinal hopes on the line, the Falcons came out guns blazing from tip-off and controlled most of the game up until the midway mark of the third quarter, when Kean Baclaan tied the game 40-all off a pair of free throws.
Adamson, however, responded well with a 10-2 rally to end the frame, 50-42, before Eli Ramos regained a 10-point lead, 52-42, off a pair of free throws to start the fourth.
Even though NU inched as near as 3, 52-55, after a Baclaan ankle-breaker and step-back three with 7:24 left to play, the Falcons stayed unfazed and converted timely buckets every time the Bulldogs tried to seize control.
Adamson finally erased all doubt of an NU comeback in the final possession, as Joshua Yerro sank a layup off a timely pump fake for the 66-60 lead with 18.6 ticks left.
“I’m not complaining about the free throw disparity,” Adamson head coach Nash Racela joked after evading suspension for his previous comments on officiating.
Turning serious, he continued, “It’s always tough when you face NU. Every time we faced them over the years, the games are always close.”
“NU’s a very tough team. I was surprised when I looked at the stats. We outrebounded them 42 to 34 when they’re a great rebounding team. I think this is probably one of the reasons why we gave ourselves a chance.”
Baclaan led all scorers in the loss with a season-high 24 points to go with 8 rebounds and 3 assists, with Jake Figueroa backstopping with 13 points, 5 boards, 2 dimes, 2 steals, and 1 block.
Adamson 68 – Hanapi 13, Montebon 12, Manzano 12, Ramos 7, Ojarikre 7, Yerro 6, Erolon 4, Calisay 3, Magbuhos 2, Barasi 2, Colonia 0, Barcelona 0, Anabo 0, Cañete 0.
NU 62 – Baclaan 24, Figueroa 13, Lim 6, Palacielo 5, John 5, Yu 4, Malonzo 2, Manansala 2, Jumamoy 1, Padrones 0.
Quarters: 25-17, 40-33, 50-42, 68-62.