MANILA, Philippines – Either Adamson University or University of the Philippines (UP) will end a long drought on Wednesday when they face off in a do-or-die game in the UAAP Season 81 Final 4 at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Fighting Maroons, playing in the UAAP Final 4 for the first time since 1997, forced a deciding game against the second-seeded Soaring Falcons with a thrilling 73-71 triumph last Saturday.
Season 81 MVP Bright Akhuetie scored the game-winner with 2.6 seconds left, in what was UP's first triumph over Adamson in this year's tournament. The Soaring Falcons had won both of their elimination round games.
UP now has all the momentum heading into Wednesday's do-or-die game, where they will try to make it to the UAAP finals for the first time since 1986.
"This is not a done deal," said UP coach Bo Perasol. "The reason that we need to be joyful about is because we are given another chance, but we're not there yet. We're not there yet."
The Fighting Maroons won on Saturday even with Akhuetie scoring only six points as he played through a fever. Veteran guard Paul Desiderio carried UP in the second half, scoring 19 points while drilling a clutch bucket with 5.5 seconds left to play.
Akhuetie expects to be in far better shape on Wednesday. "All I just have to do is get enough rest now, and I'll be good," said the Nigerian center.
The Soaring Falcons remain confident heading into the do-or-die game, with coach Franz Pumaren touting the positives from their loss to UP.
"We can still always make a comeback. Jerrick (Ahanmisi) played bad, I think it's one of his worst games, but we were just one possession away from winning," he said. "It's a learning process on the part of the players. I'm still confident that we can still bounce back."
Ahanmisi, Adamson's star guard, struggled with his shot and made only two of his 12 attempts from the field. Sean Manganti, the usual thorn on UP's side, was not much better, making 6-of-17 tries.
Papi Sarr was the one to carry the load for the Falcons, as he tallied 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting but was screened hard by Desiderio in the final play of the game to open up Akhuetie for the game-winner.
Like UP, Adamson is also eyeing an end to a long finals drought: the Falcons have not reached the championship stage since 1992.
A packed crowd is expected to show up at the Big Dome on Wednesday, with Adamson suspending classes and encouraging its students to watch at the venue. Over 14,000 fans watched last Saturday's game at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Game time is at 3:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, Far Eastern University will look to progress to the finals of the UAAP Season 81 women's basketball tournament when they take on University of Santo Tomas at 11 a.m.
The Golden Tigresses defeated Adamson last Sunday to advance to the semis, where they will face the twice-to-beat Lady Tamaraws.
Tip off is at 11 a.m., also at the Big Dome.
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