Paras grateful Maroons stepped up in twice-to-beat clincher



ANTIPOLO, Philippines – When University of the Philippines booked a return trip to the Final Four, the team accomplished the feat in true Maroons fashion – a 71-68 cardiac finish against La Salle in the UAAP Season 82 men’s basketball tournament.

The Maroons – whose games this season have been decided by no more than 6 points – rose to 9-4 to clinch the No. 2 spot that comes with a twice-to-beat semifinal advantage. 

“We’re known for having games like this, for always having a close game,” said UP stalwart Kobe Paras. “We’re just happy we pulled out the win today.”

Paras, the league’s leading scorer, only had 10 points, but none more important than his go-ahead dunk that gave the Maroons a 70-68 edge after one last tug-of-war for the lead.

After struggling to find his groove all game, Paras just felt thankful that his teammates all picked up the slack.

“As you guys have seen, Bright (Akhuetie) did amazing, Jun (Manzo) and so did Ricci (Rivero) so I’m just happy that a lot of players stepped up,” said Paras. 

Indeed, it was that veteran trifecta who did the most damage, as Akhuetie led with 17 points and 10 rebounds in the win. Rivero chipped in 12 markers while Manzo dished 8 assists, the final one being a crafty feed in the post that freed up Paras for the easy dunk. (IN PHOTOS: UP vs La Salle – UAAP Season 82, 2nd round)

As UP now carries a twice-to-beat advantage for the first time in the Final Four era, Paras plans to get back to work for one last gigantic hurdle in the form of the dynastic Ateneo Blue Eagles on Wednesday, October 30. 

“It means a lot just because I told one of the people I was talking to earlier is that UP hasn’t been in this situation in a long time,” he said. “So I’m just really grateful that we did our best today. I just can’t wait to go back to practice tomorrow and get ready for Wednesday.” –