The way he did the heavy lifting for the University of the East last week in a critical UAAP Season 82 clash, it was also no surprise that Senegalese center Alex Diakhite also put injured teammate Neil Tolentino between his two hands and carried him all the way to the bench after the forward tweaked his ankle in the third period, drawing laughter from the MOA Arena crowd.
Practically doing everything for his team that has suddenly revived hopes of a first Final Four appearance in a decade, the 6-foot-9 Diakhite poured 15 of his career-high 29 points in that quarter as the Red Warriors stunned the Adamson Falcons, 80-74, on Saturday for their first winning streak of the season.
Playing his only year of eligibility for the Warriors, Rey Suerte pumped in 26 points as UE followed up its 78-72 win over National U with an upset to start the second phase of the eliminations.
UE’s big win nearly overshadowed defending champion Ateneo’s 66-52 conquest of University of Santo Tomas for its eighth straight victory in the second game.
The results meant that the Eagles remained untouchable at the top, but the third to seventh-placed teams are separated by just one victory with UST keeping its position at No. 3 with a 4-4 card, while UE forged a tie for sixth spot with a 3-5 card.
“Inside the dugout, the reminder was this was a must-win game for us,” said Suerte in Filipino. “We want to give ourselves a chance for a Final Four spot so we have to continue winning.”
“I think that the players are finally starting to adjust,” said UE coach Bong Tan. “You can’t really blame the players because, in the last few seasons, they were accustomed to losing. I think the second round will be good for us since third to seventh spots are really close. We have a chance so we’re trying to do that.”