By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons got their UAAP Season 82 campaign on a winning start, defeating the Far Eastern University Tamaraws, 61-55, on opening day on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
One of favorites entering the new season of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines, UP showed its mettle by holding off a gallant stand from FEU to hack out the gutsy victory.
Earlier in the day, the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers chalked up their first win of the new season, beating the University of the East Red Warriors, 95-82.
UP versus FEU got off to a competitive start with the squads exchanging runs and counter-runs at the beginning of the first quarter.
Ricci Rivero and Jun Manzo thrust the Maroons to an early traction before Wendell Comboy and Kenneth Tuffin responded for the Tamaraws.
A late push by UP though, on the lead of brothers Javi and Juan Gomez De Liano, gave a 20-17 lead to the Maroons after the opening canto.
In the second frame, UP kept taking it to FEU, racing to a 34-22 advantage in the first six minutes.
The Tamaraws tried to reclaim real estate but with not much success as the Maroons were still ahead by double digits, 38-27, by the halftime break.
FEU opened the third canto with a 9-4 run to narrow the gap to just six points, 42-36, by the 5:25 mark.
It would manage to come within a point, 45-44, with two minutes to go.
UP survived the charge back, continuing to hold sway, 47-44, heading into final frame.
The two teams went at it at the start of the fourth, fighting to a 53-50 count midway and the Maroons still ahead.
The Tamaraws tied the knot at 55-all with 4:06 left on the clock.
Both teams had several chances to break the tie but could not capitalize on them until Bright Akhuetie connected on deuce inside the paint to make it 57-55 for UP at the 1:35 mark.
The Tamaraws sued for time after to set up a play.
UP’s defense held on in the ensuing plays to stay on top.
Two made free throws by Manzo with 10 seconds left pushed the Maroons to a 59-55 separation, which proved to be enough cushion to make their way to the win.
Javi Gomez De Liano led all UP scorers with 22 points followed by Manzo and Akhuetie with nine and seven points, respectively.
Rivero also had seven for the Maroons, who played without Kobe Paras, who sat out the opener with a mild ankle sprain.
Ray Bienes top-scored for FEU with nine markers.
“This is just the first game and we still have to get better. We have to control the game better and not relax especially on our defense which will be key for us this season,” said UP coach Bo Perasol following the game.
Meanwhile, Rhenz Abando and Chabi Chabiyo led a balanced and steady attack by UST to give the Tigers their first victory.
Abando top-scored for his team with 22 points to go along with four rebounds, three assists and two steals while Chabiyo had a double-double of 19 points and 12 rebounds.
Brent Paraiso and Sherwin Concepcion each had 10 points with sophomore captain CJ Cansino, coming off an ACL injury, tallying nine points, eight rebounds and five assists for UST.
UE, for its part, was paced by Rey Suerte and Alex Diakhite with 23 and 20 points, respectively.
The Tigers had control of match for much of the time until the Warriors attempted a fightback in the fourth quarter.
It was, however, not enough to tow them over the hump.
“It was nice to win your first game. It gives us the confidence and boost our morale which are important especially for a team like us made up of newcomers,” said UST coach Aldin Ayo after their win.