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La Salle pips NU; Adamson wins

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Games Saturday
(at the Araneta Coliseum)

2 p.m. UST vs. Adamson
4 p.m. NU vs. Ateneo

Justine Baltazar delivered the go-ahead baskets as De La Salle University eked out a thrilling 80-76 win over National University in Season 81 University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball tournament on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

With two seconds left in the shotclock, Baltazar received an inbound pass from Andrei Caracut at the baseline and shattered the 76-all deadlock with an uncontested jumper to give the Green Archers a 78-76 lead with 28 ticks left.

La Salle then turned to its defense in the next Bulldogs possession as it forced a five-second inbound violation on Antonio Joson that led to two free throws from Caracut to seal the victory, 80-76, with 11 ticks remaining.

“In the first half we really struggled. Good think the players just stuck out with each other. That’s what we want to achieve this year before we can compete,” said La Salle rookie coach Louie Gonzales, who had four players in double figures in scoring led by Aljun Melecio’s 19.

Baltazar finished with 17 markers but none bigger than his huge corner jumper as La Salle completed the comeback and bounced back from a 61-68 loss to Far Eastern University.
Sean Ildefonso and Troy Rike finished with 16 and 15 points, respectively, for the Bulldogs, who dropped to 1-1.

In the first game, Adamson University bucked a sloppy start and banked on the duo of Jerrick Ahanmisi and Sean Manganti in turning back the pesky University of the East (UE), 90-76, for a record-setting start.

Ahanmisi and Manganti took turns in keeping the Red Warriors at bay for a rare 2-0 start, the school’s best in a very long while as the Soaring Falcons seized the solo top spot.

Manganti tallied a career-high 27 points, 22 came in the final half where the Soaring Falcons started to pull away after a shaky first 20 minutes.

Ahanmisi added 17 points, 13 in the second period, while Papi Sarr contributed 15 markers and 21 rebounds for Adamson, which according to the league’s official stats group has not started the season with a 2-0 mark since they took over in 2003.

But the feat failed to put a smile on Soaring Falcons head coach Franz Pumaren, who criticized his team’s effort and mindset especially in the first half.

“Nothing against UE but we made it a very difficult game on our part. I guess some of the guys — coming into this game — their mentality is that UE will just gonna roll over and give the ball to us,” said Pumaren.

“I think they should look it at a different perspective because here in the UAAP your last game does not count, your record does not count. At any given time, every team can outduel the opposing team,” he added.

The Soaring Falcons entered the game as heavy favorites after shocking defending champion Ateneo de Manila University, 74-70, while UE absorbed a 58-87 humiliation from Final Four contender University of the Philippines.

But the Red Warriors, behind Alvin Pasaol, stayed within striking distance and even led at 28-25, before Ahanmisi anchored Adamso’s 17-4 close out to take a 42-32 halftime cushion.

Then it was Manganti’s show in the next two periods as he highlighted the Soaring Falcons’ onslaught in the third canto with a two-hand slam that ignited a 17-11 exchange for their biggest lead at 67-47, 1:30 left in the third.

The win spoiled Pasaol’s season-high 36 points as the Red Warriors fell to 0-2 under new coach Joe Silva. Pasaol also held the highest scoring output in Season 80 with a 49-point explosion against Ben Mbala and La Salle in a losing effort, 100-106.

“We came out a little flat but I’m glad in the second half, we were able to get it back,” said Manganti, who shot 10-of-16 from the field.

“We have to take every game like we are playing a tough team. In any given night, any team can beat any team any time,” said Ahanmisi, who had 23 points in their victory over the Blue Eagles.

Unlike in their first game, Pasaol got some help on offense this with Jason Strait finishing with 10 while Allan Beltran, Jason Varilla and Wilson Bartolome each had seven points for the Red Warriors.

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