MANILA, Philippines – Juan Gomez de Liaño finally had the breakout game he had been looking for all throughout UAAP Season 82.
In 24 minutes off the bench, the former Mythical Five member led the UP Fighting Maroons with a season-high 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting and 3-of-6 from three as their Final Four campaign kicked off.
However, the same could not be said for most of his teammates as the UST Growling Tigers forced a do-or-die semifinal game with an 89-69 demolition on Sunday, November 10.
That's now 3 straight UST wins over UP for the year with a whopping average winning margin of 14 points.
Despite the Tigers' repeated dominance over the surprisingly hapless Maroons, Gomez de Liaño did not allow himself to dwell on past events any longer.
"It doesn't matter," he said after the sorry loss. "What matters is what's going to happen on Wednesday. That's all that counts. We want to make it to the finals again and prove everyone wrong."
If anyone has a license to make such claims, it's Gomez de Liaño, who famously posted a career-high 30 points in last year's historic finals clincher against the Adamson Soaring Falcons.
Although recurring injuries saw his points per game average halved to just 7.1 for the year, the 6-foot-1 guard's confidence in himself and his team has never been fuller.
"I'm just really thankful for the situation we are in right now," he said. "We have another chance on Wednesday. So I think our approach has to be different coming into the next game."
"It's a do-or-die game so we just got to want it more. Double our efforts on both ends of the floor and just really play together. Win or lose, we still stick together. We're just trying to stay positive, whatever the situation is, and learn something from it."
Gomez de Liaño and the Maroons have one shot left to make it back to the finals as they face the Tigers anew on Wednesday, November 13. – Rappler.com