By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE Adamson Soaring Falcons are Final Four-bound for the third straight year after defeating the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers, 96-83, in their key University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 81 match on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Needing to win to book a semifinal spot complication-free, the Falcons (9-3) delivered on the back of a stronger effort in the second half to beat the Tigers (5-12), whose playoff hopes became more precarious with the loss.
Knowing the significance of the contest, the two teams came out slugging to begin the match.
The count stood at 14-all with 4:13 left in the opening quarter and it continued to be tight for the remainder of the frame with Adamson holding a slim one-point lead, 21-20, at the end of the first 10 minutes.
Both teams hardly budge to begin the second quarter, fighting to yet another deadlocked score of 29-all midway into the canto.
Sean Manganti and Simon Camacho led a 7-3 run in the next three minutes to help the Falcons to a 36-32 advantage.
But the Tigers, with Marvin Lee and Renzo Subido pacing, would not relent in their fight back, outscoring Adamson, 8-3, to overtake the latter, 40-39, by the halftime break.
At the start of the second half, the Falcons stepped up their defense and started to create some separation.
They raced to a 15-0 run in the first four minutes to build a 54-40 advantage behind the efforts of Jerrick Ahanmisi and Jerom Lastimosa.
UST though would regroup and halt Adamson’s run, scoring seven straight points care of Subido, Zach Huang and Germy Mahinay to trim their deficit to seven points, 54-47, with 4:03 to go in the third period.
Adamson would survive the UST onslaught to take a 70-58 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The Tigers tried to claw their way back to begin the payoff quarter, coming to within eight points, 77-69, by the 6:18 mark.
They kept charging but the speeding Falcons would not allow them to get any closer, answering everything that UST threw at them.
Adamson held an 87-78 advantage with two minutes remaining and sped to the victory from there.
Manganti showed the way for the Falcons with 22 points to go along with seven rebounds, four assists and two steals.
Camacho had 15 points while Ahanmisi had 13 markers. Big man Papi Sarr, meanwhile, had a double-double of 11 points and 14 rebounds.
For UST, it was Subido who top-scored with 21 points followed by Lee with 18.
Rookie CJ Cansino had 17 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.
Adamson next plays on Nov. 10 against the already-eliminated University of the East Red Warriors (1-11) where the Falcons will try to fortify their place for a top-two finish and the twice-to-beat advantage in the semifinals.
UST also plays on the same date against the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons (6-6) where they hope to win and stay in the hunt for a playoff spot.
By Michael Angelo S. Murillo