By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
The University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons weathered the storm and held their ground against the gutsy Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws, 73-70, and extended their winning streak to eight in the UAAP Season 84 men’s basketball tournament.
It seemed like the Fighting Maroons were in for a long night after shooting poorly from the field in the first half and trailed after two quarters, 57-54.
FEU’s man in the middle Emman Ojuola torched the entire UP squad and attacked the paint at will every time he got the leather at the post.
The newly-acquired foreign-student center had one of his best games of the season with 16 points and 14 rebounds but wasn’t enough to deal with the firepower UP had.
CJ Cansino led the third quarter assault after firing all of his 12 points in the first 10 minutes that sparked a huge Fighting Maroons run.
Ricci Rivero then came alive while leading the Fighting Maroons with a game-high 19 points.
It was a see-saw battle come the final canto as both teams answered back with their own offensive runs but it was UP who had the last laugh.
With the game tied at 70-all and 1:27 remaining in the game, UP swingman Zavier Lucero sank an ice-cold perimeter dagger to give them the lead, 72-70.
After the Lucero jumper, the Tamaraws’ offense suddenly went cold and failed to produce a single point in the last 1:20 of the fourth quarter.
Malick Diouf then provided the finishing touches for the UP win after sinking a freethrow with 29 seconds left.