Paul Desiderio called it.
The veteran guard hit the go-ahead triple with 1.4 seconds left to give the UP Fighting Maroons a 74-73 win over the UST Growling Tigers on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
And as it turned out, Desiderio knew he was gonna take that last shot.
“Hindi ko alam how he does that, but during the timeout he called it. Sabi niya ‘Papasok ito. Mananalo tayo, papasok itong tira na ito.’” UP coach Bo Perasol said about the team’s last possession.
“Andami ko nang tinira, mahihiya pa ba ako last shot na? Tinira ko na,” Desiderio said jokingly.
Before his booming three-pointer the fourth year guard was 5-for-19 from the field, including 1-for-10 from downtown. But as they say, shooters just need to keep shooting.
“Nagtimeout pa lang si coach Bo, sinabi ko sa kanila na pag open ako, bigay niyo sa akin,” Desiderio confidently narrated.
UP was in danger of losing their season opener as UST was determined to steal the win. With the game tied at 71 points apiece, Gelo Vito fouled Marvin Lee with 5.3 seconds remaining in the fourth period. Lee sank both free throws and gave the Tigers a 73-71 advantage. But Perasol and Desiderio had one more trick up their sleeves.
“Our instruction was if you’re open in the three-point area, take it,” Perasol shared. “I have to give credit to my offensive coordinator Ricky Dandan because he was the one who designed that play.”
Desiderio finished with 17 points as the lone UP player who reached double figures. Vito ended up with nine points while Noah Webb and rookie Juan Gomez de Liano had seven points each.
Lee meanwhile ended up with 20 points for UST. Steve Akomo, recently approved by the UAAP Board of Trustees alongside UP’s Ibrahim Outarra, put up a double-double of 15 points and 14 rebounds in a stunning debut.
After their getting their first win in thrilling fashion, Perasol mentioned that he wants to continue to fan the flame of the UP community.
“Alam mo yung unang objective ko talaga was to parang generate excitement kasi talagang walang kabuhay-buhay ang UP community pagdating sa, pagbigay ng tsansa sa basketball team eh,” the coach shared. “In that game, I don’t think we are going to go nowhere if we played that way. But one way to get that objective again, yung generate excitement sa UP community kahit na wala silang pakialam kung ano nangyari sa game, but it generated excitement again with the last second shot by Paul.”
The Fighting Maroons hope to build on their first win when they take on last season’s runners-up Ateneo Blue Eagles in their next game.
UP 74 – Desiderio 17, Vito 9, Webb 7, Gomez de Liano Ju 7, Manzo 6, Gomez de Liano Ja 6, Ouattara 4, Lim 4, Prado 4, Dario 4, Lao 4, Romero 2, Harris 0
UST 73 – Lee 20, Akomo 15, Sta. Ana 11, Soriano 8, Huang 6, Garcia 5, Faundo 4, Arana 2, De Guzman 2, Basibas 0, Caunan 0, Kwawukumey 0, Macasaet 0, Romero 0
QUARTER SCORES: 18-19, 42-33, 57-57, 74-73