UAAP: AP Manlapaz breakout game bolsters Adamson ahead of do-or-die match
MANILA, Philippines — Fit-again AP Manlapaz was a silver lining in Adamson’s 66-61 loss to No.1 seed Ateneo, which sent the Falcons to a playoff for fourth place against La Salle, in the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament on Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Manlapaz, who was playing sparingly throughout the season due to a nagging knee injury, finally came out of his shell as he unleashed 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting in 16 minutes of play.
But the 21-year-old forward had mixed feelings about his breakout game as they failed to clinch the fourth seed in the Final Four and will have to face La Salle on Sunday at Mall of Asia Arena.
“Mixed emotions. I’m happy that I finally played with longer minutes. But we still lost,” said Manlapaz in Filipino after shooting 4-of-7 from deep and grabbing five rebounds.
“We still have a chance to make it [in the Final Four] on Sunday.”
Adamson coach Nash Racela was elated to see Manlapaz regaining his form as the 6-foot-4 forward kept the Falcons afloat in the third quarter, where he scored 10 in the final 2:35.
“We’re happy that he’s available. We’ve been waiting for him. I explained to coach Mike (Fermin) and to (AP) that during those times when teams were really attacking Jerom, that’s when we really needed a player like AP,” said Racela. “But he wasn’t really available [in those times]. That’s okay. At least, moving forward, we have him.”
Ateneo assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga also lauded the sophomore Falcon and the depth of Adamson’s bench as other players have been stepping up with Jerom Lastimosa not playing 100 percent due to his right foot injury.
“[He is] certainly one of the keys for Adamson, 9-of-13, couldn’t be stopped. And you know, if you look at the games of Adamson, someone has stepped up for them in the second round, in the absence of Jerom Lastimosa. And it has continued, even with Lastimosa back,” said Arespacochaga.
“They’ve earned the right to contend for that Final 4 spot. So you’ve got to give them credit. Next game, we don’t know. It can be him again, it can be someone else. But that’s how Adamson has been playing. It’s certainly a surprise that it was Manlapaz, but not a surprise that someone has stepped up.”
Racela is confident that Manlapaz will continue to provide quality minutes for the Falcons.
“We’re confident he’ll be able to give us minutes. Hopefully, he can sustain it, or play longer. He’ll get used to it,” he said.
Heading to their do-or-die game against La Salle, the Adamson coach has more options even when they take out Lastimosa off the floor.
“We’re learning how to play without Jerom. For us coaches, even if we pull him out, we’re confident that at least two or three guys will carry the floor without him. Again, it’s a learning process. AP is learning it. Other guys will get better, for sure,” Racela said.
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