MAROONS WIN FINALLY
University of Santo Tomas fashioned out yet another come-from-behind victory with Cameroonian import Karim Adbul hitting on the go-ahead basket with 51.1 seconds left as the Tigers eked out a 61-60 win against a fighting Adamson University that installed them as tournament leaders with Ateneo de Manila after the first round of the UAAP men’s basketball competitions at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Abdul teamed up with Kevin Ferrer and Jeric Fortuna in towing the Tigers from a 54-60 deficit, with only 3:18 left in the game, in a sizzling seven-point windup to overcome the Falcons, who had held sway for most of the way until that collapse in the homestretch.
Ferrer recovered the offensive rebound off a miss by Clark Bautista, Fortuna knocked in a triple atop the free throw line while Abdul bullied the leaner Rodney Brondial in scoring from point-blank range for the go-ahead basket — the crucial barrage of points for which the Falcons had no answer.
Abdul went on to post yet another double-double game, finishing with 18 points and 11 rebounds, the bulk of his production for the Tigers coming in the last eight minutes of the games when he dominated with seven points.
Adamson, which had led by as many as 11 points, ran out of steam when top scorer Eric Camson left the game with a cramped right leg and went scoreless through the last 3:18 on a 24-second violation and four missed attempts from the floor.
Sadly, it was Camson, who had been dispatched by Adamson coach Leo Austria, who took the final basket for the Falcons with 5.4 seconds on the gameclock. But cramped legs couldn’t give him the lift as he went for a drive against Abdul and Ferrer, his weak shot falling short of the rim as time expired.
Thus, the Tigers stormed to their sixth straight win — the school’s longest streak in the coach Alfredo Jarencio-era — against a lone loss to tie the Blue Eagles at the top of the leader board after the first round.
In the second game, University of the Philippines avoided the ignominy of being the only winless squad after the first round, repulsing University of the East, 63-48. That late triumph in the round tied the Maroons with the Falcons and Warriors at the bottom of the standings with identical 1-6 win-loss slates.
It was a big-confidence builder for the Maroons, who also snapped a 15-game losing streak stretching back to season 73.
“Yung attitude of not giving up, na hangga’t may oras pa ay laban pa rin hanggang dulo. Tumibay na kami sa sitwasyong yan. Sa endgame, nananalo,” said Jarencio, obviously relieved that his Tigers’ never-say-die spirit rescued them anew in yet another comeback win which was their fifth out of the six games they won.
And that Camson, who had sizzled with 19 points and 10 rebounds, had to be lifted from the game with cramps when the Falcons were protecting that 60-54 lead, Jarencio said it was another indication that UST has, indeed, been blessed with much luck this season.
“May bwenas talaga, bigay ng tadhana. Yung kanina, tsamba na lang talaga yun. May mga puso lahat ang mga bata,” Jarencio said.
Not a few had sensed that Lady Luck may finally get tired of smiling for the Tigers yesterday when the fired-up Falcons opened the third quarter with four unanswered points from Brondial and Roider Cabrera that gave them their biggest lead at 37-26.
The Tigers were, however, relentless in their attacks as Aljohn Mariano replied with nine straight points that put them to within 37-39. It was also his three-pointer that installed them briefly ahead at 47-46 as Brondial and Cabrera clustered five points to end the quarter for that 51-47 Adamson lead, going into the final 10 minutes.
Then Abdul started to take over even while Adamson continued to pound him inside the paint with a triple-team. The 6-foot-6 MVP contender scored on three free throws and crashed the boards with an inside basket that put the Tigers to within 54-57, with 4:42 remaining.
Allen Etrone kept the charging Tigers at bay with a booming triple (60-54) but that would turn out to be the last points from the fading Falcons in the last 3:18.