MANILA, Philippines – For UP to make its first trip to the Final Four since 1997, a special talent had to have his hands on the steering wheel.
With a 3-5 record at the midway mark of UAAP Season 81, the Fighting Maroons turned over the reins of the offense to their very own special talent in Juan Gomez de Liaño and since then, they have gone 5-1.
Now, State U will be seeing action in the Final Four for the first time in 21 years – and it was all because its sophomore standout made all the right plays.
Gomez de Liaño's most crucial plays came in UP's most crucial game in recent history last Wednesday, November 14, when it was matched up with La Salle with the third-seed up for grabs.
And all game long, the Season 80 Rookie of the Year did nothing but deliver and eventually ended with 27 points, 4 assists, and 3 rebounds.
More importantly, his performance eventually ended with a win that pulled the Fighting Maroons out of a playoff drought that lasted more than two decades.
For that, Gomez de Liaño was duly recognized as the Chooks-to-Go Collegiate Sports Press Corps UAAP Player of the Week.
"I said even in the offseason that we're going to make it to the Final Four. I promised coach Bo [Perasol], I promised everybody that we'll be here, and now we're here, we're not taking it for granted," he said.
In the last 6 games, 5 of which UP won, Gomez de Liaño averaged 16.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.8 assists off the bench.
This, compared to the first 8 games, 5 of which the Fighting Maroons lost, when he normed 19.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 4.3 assists as a starter.
Gomez edged out brother Javi and teammate Bright Akhuetie, Ateneo pair of Angelo Kouame and William Navarro, and NU's one-and-done big man Troy Rike for the weekly plum handed out by print and online scribes covering the beat.
NU volleybelles now 9-0 in girls' volleyball
Reigning four-time UAAP girls' champion National University swept UP Integrated School, 25-5, 25-20, 25-10, to stay perfect Sunday, November 18, in Season 81 of the high school volleyball tournament at the FEU-Diliman Gym.
Jessa Ordiales had 8 points, Alyssa Solomon had 3 service aces to finish with 7 hits while Minerva Maaya also added 7 points for the Bullpups.
With its ninth consecutive win, NU is just 3 victories away from claiming an outright Finals berth.
Angel Canino had 23 points, 14 receptions and 7 digs while Alleiah Malaluan added 9 hits, 9 digs and 10 receptions as second-running De La Salle-Zobel prevailed over University of the East, 25-20, 30-28, 25-19, to formalize its semifinals entry with its seventh win in 9 matches.
Adamson University outlasted Far Eastern University-Diliman, 25-27, 25-22, 12-25, 25-22, 15-13, to solidify its hold of 3rd spot with a 6-3 record.
The Baby Falcons also opened a one-and-a-half game cushion over the Baby Tamaraws (4-6) in the race for the last semis slot.
In the boys' division, NU topped De La Salle-Zobel, 25-11, 25-18, 25-17, to rise to 11-0 and also move within 3 wins of gaining an outright passage to the Finals.
FEU-Diliman made quick work of Ateneo, 25-18, 25-9, 25-13, to seize solo 2nd with a 9-3 card.
In other results, UST bested UPIS, 25-12, 25-15, 25-19, while Adamson outlasted UE, 25-23, 23-25, 25-22, 23-25, 18-16.
The Tiger Cubs and the Baby Falcons are in joint 3rd at 7-4, a game ahead of the fifth-running Junior Warriors (6-5).
Ateneo ends winless spell in juniors' football
Ateneo turned to rookie Manu Mariano's early goal to beat De La Salle-Zobel, 1-0, for a winning start in the UAAP Season 81 juniors football tournament Sunday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Mariano struck in the 4th minute as the Blue Eaglets claimed their first win after going winless last season, which saw them pull off at least one draw.
Meanwhile, National University bested University of Santo Tomas, 1-0.
UAAP Media barges into Goodwill Games finals
UAAP Media barged into the finals of the 2018 Goodwill Games after demolishing ABS-CBN Sports, 119-105, in the semifinals on Wednesday, November 14, at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Tiebreaker Times' Roy Cayanan scorched hot for 39 points while Taylor Statham deliver 32 points as the Scribes remained perfect at 3-0.
UAAP Media held a 55-43 lead at halftime and never relinquished it en route to the rousing triumph.
Tiebreaker Times' Arnold Cagang, Spin.ph's Christian Jacinto, ESPN5's Yo Sarmenta and Inquirer.net's Bong Lozada also provided timely contributions in the win.
UAAP Media (119) – Cayanan 39, Statham 32, Borre 21, Usi 13, Cagang 10, Jacinto 2, Sarmenta 2, Lozada 0.
ABS-CBN Sports (105) – Reyes 33, Luanzon 29, Roxas 19, Velasco 9, Acabado 8, Benitez 7, Manotoc 0.
Quarterscores: 26-15, 55-43, 85-68, 119-105