With a little over 80 seconds remaining in the game, Val Chauca, taking advantage of a turnover forced by Adamson, curled above the three-point area, took a pass from Jerrick Ahanmisi and drained a huge triple.
That capped the first half of what would end up a 16-0 run to close the game that allowed the Falcons to strike down the University of Santo Tomas Tigers, 78-71, on Wednesday in UAAP Season 82 men’s basketball tournament at Mall of Asia Arena.
And if that shot, and the 11 points Chauca logged in the fourth quarter—10 straight to give his team the lead for good—of that comeback win was too subtle a way to get his message across, the 24-year-old guard doubled down on it postgame.
“The goal is pretty simple—go to the finals, win the finals,” Chauca said. “Personally, I wanna win the MVP. I wanna be very efficient, keep my turnovers down, shoot it efficiently. I just wanna keep winning.”
The Filipino-Peruvian find finished with 18 points, eight assists and six rebounds as one-half of a scorching backcourt duo that towed Adamson into a tie with UST at 3-2 (win-loss).
Chauca’s partner, Ahanmisi, finished with 24 points. He was limited to four in the final quarter, but Chauca came to the rescue.
Adamson, down 13 early in the fourth period and nine late in the game, looked lost and winded against UST’s relentless offense, prompting coach Franz Pumaren to quit managing the game from the sidelines and handing the keys to the game to his star guards.
“Probably if I didn’t stop coaching, that difference between us and UST [would] have ballooned already,” Pumaren said. “I just had to tell everybody stay within the course and of course, we got a big lift from Val.”
“This game really wasn’t about the Xs and Os. This game was all heart,” Chauca said.
Adamson’s victory allowed University of the Philippines to temporarily leapfrog past UST for solo second behind undefeated Ateneo.
The Maroons avoided a total collapse down the stretch in an 80-79 victory that added to the litany of sorrows of National U.
Kobe Paras led UP with 25 points and six rebounds in just his second game this season while Bright Akhuetie had 19 points and 12 rebounds.
“The [difficulty in] trying to rev up your team and go up against a 0-3 team is them thinking that they can just go past that particular team,” UP coach Bo Perasol told reporters after UP strung up a second straight win for a 3-1 record.
“NU is a lot, lot better than [its] 0-4 slate.”
It was the third time in their 0-4 start that the Bulldogs lost by a single point. In four games this season, NU has been outscored by its opponents in regulation by just 2 points—the Bulldogs have already played in two overtime games so far.
In its first three losses this season, NU has had the lead in the last 15 seconds of the match (against La Salle), last 6.5 seconds (against UST) and last 1.4 seconds (against Adamson). The Bulldogs’ 0-3 start could easily have been 3-0 had it not been for clutch jumpers or end game defensive lapses.
Loss No. 4 was a late comeback that was thwarted when UP’s defense forced a miss on John Lloyd Clemente.
“I was telling [the Bulldogs] right after the game, in the next 20 years of your life, you would look at this season and no matter what you will encounter in your lives, you will be ready because you will overcome all these pains,” coach Jamike Jarin said.
“You will get better,” he added.
They need to, fast. NU’s next game is defending two-time champion Ateneo (4-0). And Jarin is sure he won’t catch Eagles coach Tab Baldwin napping.
“I’m sure [Ateneo] coach Tab Baldwin will be doing his homework and I’m sure he’s gonna tell his boys this NU team is not a pushover,” Jarin said.
Later in the afternoon, Far Eastern U turned to Wendell Comboy late to rip La Salle, 66-55.
Comboy scored five straight points to put the Tamaraws ahead, 64-53, 1:35 remaining. FEU evened its record to 2-2 while La Salle dropped to 1-3.
Five games into what will be his lone UAAP season, Chauca is just relishing the experience.
“Experiences like this [go] farther than basketball,” he said. “Coach Franz often preaches in the locker room how you are going to be off the court as a man. When things go bad, when things go wrong, are you just gonna collapse in defeat or are you gonna get up and keep fighting, keep pushing?”
Chauca is also in a rush to shape the young Falcons, hoping he’ll leave something behind.
“What I really try to preach to the young guys is this is gonna come and go really fast. In three months this is going to be all over [and] you might never get [another] chance,” he said. “So every time you step on the floor, you not only represent the school, God, but you represent your family, your loved ones, everyone that’s helped you along your journey.”
Meanwhile, National U routed University of the Philippines, 105-53, in the women’s tournament to stretch its historic winning streak to 85 games.
Jack Animam had 16 points and 12 rebounds in just 18 minutes of action while Rhena Itesi added 11 points and nine rebounds in just 16 minutes of play.
So dominant were the Lady Bulldogs that coach Patrick Aquino took the opportunity to give his second and third stringers some court time.