“A tough test” is an understatement for UP’s comeback in the Final Four. They were pitted against a highly promising Adamson Soaring Falcons, the only team that remained undefeated after the first five games of the season. Not only that, AdU carried with them a twice-to-beat advantage that made a Finals berth a seemingly impossible task for UP. Games were played down to the wire as UP forced a do-or-die. After all was said and done, it was the hearts of San Marcelino students which were left broken.
Let us cut to the chase, the finals appearance of last year’s Maroon squad was not served on a silver platter. UP fought their way through adversity. Expectations were sky high but they settled for less than 50-50 to end the first round of Season 81. Luckily, the Fighting Maroons got it going in the next games through the leadership of eventual MVP Bright Akhuetie and adjustments made by star player Paul Desiderio. At the start of the season, the community only prayed for a Final Four appearance. The major plot twist happened as the semifinals came to a close.
It was a cinderella run indeed that the UP Fighting Maroons headed to the UAAP Finals and faced the Ateneo Blue Eagles. Unfortunate events happened for UP though at the cusp of the collegiate basketball league’s finale. Akhuetie suffered from injury and they just simply had no answer to Thirdy Ravena’s magic. Despite the loss, the Maroon-clad Araneta Coliseum did not dwell on the negatives but celebrated the most-anticipated return of UP in the Finals. They waited until the final buzzer as Coach Bo Perasol was cheering up his team after defeat. With that, the community also cried by realizing that this was the last game for some of their most beloved players including “Mr. Atin ‘To” Paul Desiderio. There was exactly nothing to be ashamed of with how things turned out for the Fighting Maroons. However, the end opens a door to a lot of questions.
How is UP going to be without its “cornerstone” in Desiderio? Will the newcomers, most especially prized recruits Ricci Rivero and Kobe Paras, fit in the system Coach Bo made for the Maroons? Since there is “nowhere to go but up”, where do the UP Fighting Maroons go from here? Is a title win a huge possibility now? The last time UP took home the chip, Larry Bird was still playing in the NBA.
(to be continued…)