They were seconds away from 3-1, seconds away from victory, seconds away from avenging their semifinals loss from last season. But it would not be. Instead of joyous revenge, the Falcons faced familiar heartbreak as they lost the overtime thriller 82-83.
At halftime the game was looking good for the Adamson Falcons. They were beginning to hit their stride, forcing defensive stops while Valandre Chauca went on a scoring tear. In the 2nd quarter alone, Valandre outscored the entire UP team 15-7. He hit 3 three pointers to give the Falcons a commanding 41-25 lead going into halftime.
But no lead is safe in the UAAP, as UP led by the high flying Kobe Paras waged a ferocious comeback to snatch the lead before the start of the fourth quarter.
The Soaring Falcons regrouped in the fourth quarter and climbed back into the lead off stellar clutch plays by rookie Adrian Manlapaz which included a four-point play to tie the game at 64 and a Val Chauca triple with 2:10 left in regulation. The Falcons were looking good in the dying seconds of regulation as Jerom Lastimosa hit 2 clutch freethrows to give them a 3 point leas with just over a minute to go.
Unfortunately for the Falcons a bad pass from Lastimosa opened a window for the Maroons. With 31.1 seconds left in the game Kobe Paras drew in the defense and threw a kick out pass to Javi De Liano who made his first triple of the game to tie. After failing to score the game went into overtime.
Overtime was where Soaring Falcons rookie Adrian Manlapaz made his introduction to the UAAP. The former Baby Falcon made crucial plays in the extra period, first getting a block on reigning MVP Bright Akhuetie which he converted into a layup, and then scoring again to push the lead to 79-75.
For the rookie, the courage to take the big shots came from his desire to make up for his previous games, “Mga last games kasi wala pa akong napapakita kaya ngayon gusto ko talaga bumawi.”
Although not yet part of the seniors team last season, Manlapaz shares the basketball grudge against UP and wants to help Adamson get even with the team that eliminated them from the Final Four. “Masaya sana kung nakuha namin yung payback for last year kaso, wala eh.”
The Soaring Falcons know they have nobody but themselves to blame for letting go of the winnable game. Key errors from the veterans ultimately kept UP in the game, allowing them to seal the win from the line. But they are determined to learn from this experience and keep pushing forward toward their goal of a championship.
Up next on their schedule, the Falcons will face the 3-1 UST Growling Tigers on Wednesday.