MANILA, Philippines – Paul Desiderio took charge down the stretch as University of the Philippines (UP) stunned Far Eastern University (FEU), 71-68, in a thrilling contest in the 2017 FilOil Flying V Preseason Tournament on Wednesday.
Desiderio overcame a poor shooting night, as he made the last two field goals he took – both of which were big-time triples – en route to a 12-point performance. Ibrahim Quattara had 12 points and 12 boards to help UP’s cause.
“I think this is one of the best games that we had so far in this tournament, and I’m happy that we were able to do it against a very strong program like FEU,” UP coach Bo Perasol said.
Trailing by as much as 10 points, 52-62, in the final quarter, the Fighting Maroons lived up to their moniker with Ibrahim Quattara igniting their comeback by scoring seven straight points that made it a five-point game, 59-64, with just under two minutes left.
FEU still led 67-61 after a split at the line by Jasper Parker, when Desiderio took over. His triple at the 1:02 mark made it a one possession game, 64-67, and after Arvin Tolentino split his charities, Desiderio attacked the hoop to draw a foul, and calmly knocked down his free throws.
Clinging to a 68-66 lead, the Tamaraws missed out on a dagger as Tolentino’s triple fell short. Desiderio then capped his heroics by draining the step-back triple over FEU’s RJ Ramirez with just 12 seconds left to play.
“Nagpapasalamat ako kay Coach Bo, kasi kahit nagmi-mintis ako, kahit first to third wala akong na-shoot, laging sinasabi ni Coach Bo na ‘pag open ka, itira mo,” Desiderio said after the game.
UP then held firm in the final possession of the game, with Tolentino bricking another jumper that allowed Jun Manzo to go all the way for the lay-up that pegged the final score.
“What’s important to us is we did not lose our focus when we were down 10 points,” Perasol said. “I was telling them that we were just behind because we can’t shoot. We were defending really well.”
Manzo led UP in scoring with 13 points. The Fighting Maroons were in control for most of the first half, with Manzo’s buzzer-beating halftime heave giving them a 38-32 advantage.
But the Tamaraws took over in the third quarter, with Ken Tuffin and Brandley Bienes finding their range from beyond the arc while Joseph Nunang repeatedly slashed to the bucket to help FEU snatch the lead. The Tams’ advantage grew to 10 points early in the fourth period before UP’s impressive rally.
Tolentino finished with 12 points for the Tamaraws, who suffered their first loss of the preseason tilt.
Both UP and FEU now have 4-1 records in Group B of the FilOil tournament.
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