University of the Philippines has certainly put the call of veteran gunner Jett Manuel straight into its heart. Count rookie Javi Gomez De Liano among those who responded.
The 6-foot-2 forward came through with his finest performance yet on Wednesday, providing the spark off the bench in UP’s stunning 70-66 victory over Adamson in the UAAP Season 79 men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Initially tasked to play defense, Gomez De Liano showed he can also deliver the goods offensively, banging in 10 of his 13 points in the second half.
More importantly, he helped ease the load off the shoulders of top guns Jett Manuel and Paul Desiderio on the way to UP’s second straight victory and third overall against six losses.
Manuel finished with a team-high 16 points along with Desiderio, highlighted by a pair of crucial buckets that allowed UP to fend off Adamson’s last-ditch fightback.
“Malaking motivation talaga ‘yun sa amin. We know we can be a much better team,” said the 18-year-old De Liano, who’s been getting the big confidence-booster from Perasol and his veteran UP teammates.
“Malaking bagay sa akin ‘yung confidence booster mula sa mga seniors ko. Lagi nila ako ine-encourage na ‘Kaya mo ‘yan. ‘Wag kang magdalawang isip. Do whatever you’re gonna do.’ Malaki rin ang tiwala sa akin ni coach Bo sa game na ‘to,” he stressed.
Despite his solid offensive performance that saw him make all of his five attempts from the field, including a booming triple for a 65-54 lead with four minutes to play, De Liano admitted he got his confidence by helping slow down his Adamson counterparts.
“Gusto ni coach Bo, when he picks someone off the bench, lagi lang handa. Nu’ng pinili niya ako kanina, I was able to do defensive stops first. ‘Yung offense, it will follow,” he stressed. “Pero ang gusto niya is (to play) defense (first). You have to show to him that you can defend well. Everything else will follow after.”
While he’s starting to play comfortable as a stretch-4, De Liano admitted he’s pleased to see the Fighting Maroons get their acts together.
“We’re just talking as a team. We know we can get more wins for this team. It’s about time that results are coming,” he said. – Jerome Lagunzad
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