MANILA, Philippines – The UP Fighting Maroons showed off the heart of a champion as they completed a 72-69 comeback win against the La Salle Green Archers to kick off their UAAP Season 85 title defense campaign at the Mall of Asia Arena on Saturday, October 1.
Season 84 Mythical Five member Carl Tamayo picked up right where he left off with a massive 18-point, 19-rebound double-double finish, while Terrence Fortea stepped up in the absence of finals hero JD Cagulangan with 15 points, a game-high 9 assists, and 5 boards.
After trailing by as many as 10 points in the first half, UP slowly reversed its fortunes around in the fourth quarter, and tied the game, 54-all, after an 8-0 run capped by a Fortea three.
The Maroons then eventually took a 60-57 lead – their first since 29-28 in the second quarter – after team captain Brix Ramos converted a wild and-one play with 6 minutes left in regulation.
Although UP looked headed for an easy finish after key Malick Diouf buckets and a breakaway layup by James Spencer for the 70-64 lead with 16 ticks left, La Salle squeezed out 5 points in that narrow time frame, capped by an Evan Nelle three to get within 69-70 with 4 seconds left.
Unfazed, Tamayo barely escaped a traveling violation off the inbound in the next play and calmly sank the game-winning free throws after the duty foul.
Schonny Winston saw his huge 27-point effort go down the drain in the heartbreaking loss, while Mythical Five member Michael Phillips scattered 8 points and game-highs of 20 rebounds, 4 blocks, and 3 steals.
UP aims to start a quick winning streak on Wednesday, October 5, 1 pm, against the Adamson Soaring Falcons, while La Salle clashes with surprise opening day winner UST that same day at 4 pm.
UP 72 – Tamayo 18, Fortea 15, Diouf 9, Spencer 8, Lucero 7, Gonzales 7, Alarcon 5, Ramos 3, Abadiano 0, Galinato 0, Torculas 0, Eusebio 0, Lina 0, Calimag 0.
La Salle 69 – Winston 27, Nelle 9, M. Phillips 8, Nonoy 8, Quiambao 5, Austria 4, Manuel 4, Nwankwo 2, Macalalag 2, B. Phillips 0.
Quarters: 16-17, 34-42, 50-54, 72-69.