By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter
THRUST into a position to go deeper in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines men’s basketball tournament, semifinal-returning University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons intend to make full use of the opportunity given to them and go for it.
Defeated the De La Salle Green Archers, 97-81, in their all-important matchup on Wednesday, the Maroons are now girding for a semifinal clash with the second-seeded Adamson Soaring Falcons in the semifinals which will begin next week.
It will mark the first time in 21 years that the Diliman-based team is playing in the Final Four. The last time it was part of the top four was in 1997 when the Paolo Mendoza-bannered UP squad nearly upended top seeds Far Eastern University Tamaraws in the semifinals, bucking a twice-to-win handicap and forcing a rubber match.
Back among the top teams in the league, Maroons coach Bo Perasol said they are very happy as a community and proud of the significant progress that their basketball program has achieved in the last few years.
But he said they are not satisfied of just being where they are right now and are looking to go even further.
“While we will enjoy this there is still a game to be played in the Final Four and we will prepare for that,” a jubilant Perasol said after their victory over La Salle that booked for them a semifinal spot and the third seed in the Final Four.
“We’re in this to win this. It’s definite that who ends up at number two is one of the best in the league. But we’re here and we might as well enjoy it and fight for it,” he added.
Mr. Perasol, now on his third year of handling the Maroons, however, recognizes that they are going up against formidable opponents in the Falcons in the Final Four, more so since they have to beat them two times to advance, having to deal with a twice-to-win disadvantage.
In two games in the elimination round, Adamson had the number of UP, winning, 69-68, off a Sean Manganti game-winner in the first round, and, 80-72, in the second round.
But Mr. Perasol is undeterred by their lack of success so far against the Falcons this season, and vowed that his team would work hard and not make it easy for their opponents.
“What I am confident about is I know my team will fight for it. We still need to figure out things against Adamson. But this is basketball and we have a chance against them. And we’re not going to offer it to them on a silver platter. And knowing my players, they will know how to figure it out,” he said.
The elimination round of UAAP Season 81 has still one play date left on Nov. 18, which includes that between Adamson and FEU at 4 p.m. at the Mall of Asia Arena. A win by FEU forces a playoff with La Salle for the final spot in the Final Four.