MALICK DIOUF of UP drives to the basket against Ange Kouame of Ateneo during the UAAP Mens basketball Finals game 3 at Smart Araneta Coliseum, Dec. 19. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ RUSSELL PALMA

ONCE again, there is no way to go but up for University of the Philippines (UP) after a tough fall from the UAAP throne.

Unseated after only a seven-month reign, the Fighting Maroons want no less than payback of their own with a promise of a finals return in Season 86 for the third season in a row.

“That’s life. We played and fought until the end but God has other plans so we just have to live with it and bounce back. I think we can expect a lot come Season 86. We have to get our revenge,” said UAAP Season 85 MVP Malick Diouf as UP fell to Ateneo, 75-68, in the winner-take-all Game 3.

“Hopefully we learn from it and bounce back next season. We’ll come back stronger next season. We’ll come back better,” added Carl Tamayo, who joined Mr. Diouf in the Mythical Team.

Messrs. Diouf and Tamayo, despite their individual awards, however could not put an icing on the cake with the foiled comeback attempt of the Fighting Maroons after trailing as big as 20 points.

In the process, UP was denied a historic feat of winning two titles in one year after snapping a 36-year title drought last May in Season 84 at the expense of former three-time champion Ateneo, which was quick to regain its crown.

“It’s been a lot of work, having two seasons in one year. It’s not the way we want it to end but I won’t let that take away from all the lessons and friendships that we’ve built,” said James Spencer, who also vowed to return for his final year.

“It’s been a hell of a ride. We’re finally gonna have a whole offseason so a lot more time with the group. A lot more time to build chemistry. I think we’ll be good. We’ll be back there again.” — John Bryan Ulanday