MANILA, Philippines – No Kobe Paras, no problem.
Javi Gomez de Liaño caught fire in his very first game as the UP Fighting Maroons survived the FEU Tamaraws, 61-55, to start their UAAP Season 82 campaign at the Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday, September 4.
The older Gomez de Liaño brother – who finished with a game-high 22 points – sparked a 38-27 lead in the 1st half built on a staggering 16 points in the first two quarters.
However, FEU came storming back midway through the 3rd to inch within 3 points, 41-44, off a 10-4 run.
Both teams traded buckets and stops until the Tamaraws eventually tied the game at 55-all off an Ino Comboy free throw with 4:06 left in regulation.
But the Maroons – the surprise runner-up to two-time champion Ateneo last season – kept their poise as reigning season MVP Bright Akhuetie broke a scoring drought from both sides with a short hook for the 57-55 lead with 1:35 left.
Branrey Bienes launched a potential go-ahead triple with 26 seconds left but it clanked off. UP captain Jun Manzo responded by sealing the game with 4 straight free throws off duty fouls to save their debut game.
Paras missed the Maroons' opening game reportedly due to injury.
Ricci Rivero also impressed in his UP debut, flashing a highlight-worthy slam early in the game.
UP 61 – Ja. Gomez de Liaño 22, Manzo 9, Akhuetie 7, Rivero 7, Murrell 6, Ju. Gomez de Liano 6, Webb 3, Prado 1, Mantilla 0, Tungcab 0, Spencer 0.
FEU 55 – Bienes 9, Gonzales 8, Tchuente 8, Comboy 8, Tuffin 6, Torres 6, Cani 5, Ebona 3, Celzo 2, Alforque 0.
Quarters: 20-17, 38-27, 47-44, 61-55.