All eyes will be on Jerom Lastimosa as he tries to lead Adamson University to a return stint to the Final Four to a crucial elimination round clash with Ateneo de Manila University in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 85 men’s basketball tournament today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Holding a 7-6 win-loss record at solo fourth spot, the Falcons need to hurdle the Blue Eagles in their 4 p.m. encounter to make their first semis stint since 2018.
Defending champion University of the Philippines and Ateneo are already in the Final Four armed with twice-to-beat advantages while National University has locked the No. 3 seed.
Lastimosa, who showed no signs of slowing down despite suffering a right foot injury that forced him to miss a couple of games, was the hero in Adamson’s 64-63 victory over the Bulldogs last Saturday as he drained the game-winning triple with time winding down.
His heroics came on the heels of his 23-point explosion in the Falcons’ 75-70 win last Thursday that formally eliminated Far Eastern University.
With Lastimosa serving as inspiration, Adamson is now on a three-game roll and in a good position for the last semis slot.
“Yeah, we still have a chance to enter the Final Four. If you will look at our last four games, we’re actually playing great. So, one game at a time. Just one more win, one more push to make it to the Final Four,” Lastimosa said.
In fact, the Falcons still have another route to the semis in case they drop their game against the Blue Eagles.
Adamson is assured of a playoff for the No. 4 seed if ever De La Salle University wins over the struggling University of Santo Tomas in the 2 p.m. curtain-raiser.
The Green Archers carry a 6-7 card and a victory over the also-ran Tigers, who are on a 12-game slump in 13 outings, will force a tie at 7-7 if the Falcons lose.
In case UST scores an upset, Adamson will march in the Final Four regardless of its result against Ateneo.
But Falcons head coach Nash Racela would rather make it on their own than leave their fate to chance.
“We’ll give our best, just like every game. We just hope that our best is really our best. Sometimes they look like they’re giving their best but they commit a lot of mistakes. So hopefully, when we play 30 November, yeah, we really bring our absolute best,” he said.
The Blue Eagles sport a 10-3 record at No. 2.
Although Ateneo is already assured of a semis bonus, it won’t take it easy against the Falcons as it can still claim the No. 1 seed in case it ends up tied with the Fighting Maroons (11-3).
“Play to win. There’s only one way to play the game of basketball. Play to win,” Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin said.
Ateneo is on a five-game winning streak with UP being its last victim, 75-67, last Saturday.
The Blue Eagles devoured the Falcons, 76-55, in their first meeting last 19 October.