By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
WHILE they fell short in seizing an early series lead in their best-of-three University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 81 finals series at the weekend, the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons are still bullish of their chances against the Ateneo Blue Eagles, seeing how they were able to hold their own vis-a-vis their highly favored opponents.
The Diliman-based Maroons bowed to the defending champions Eagles, 88-79, on Saturday in Game One of the UAAP Finals but not after making the latter sweat with a solid effort on both ends of the court.
It was something that UP coach Bo Perasol is high about and hopes to sustain heading into the must-win Game Two on Wednesday.
“For a first-timer in the finals I have to appreciate the kind of effort that my boys had shown. If there is one takeaway that we can get from this and think about, that is, it is possible,” said Mr. Perasol in the postgame press conference following Game One.
“It’s possible that we can beat Ateneo. Before the series everything was like you don’t have any match against them, you don’t have any experience going into the finals. But my players showed that with a little tweaking on defense, and probably a little rest, they could give Ateneo a run for its money,” he added.
In Game One, UP competed for much of the game against the top-seeded Eagles, not allowing the latter to soar as much as they wanted to.
But eventually Ateneo, in the UAAP finals for the third straight year, would bank on its experience down the stretch, led by its veterans, to create some separation and put away the game for the win.
Guard Jun Manzo led the Maroons with 19 points while Juan Gomez De Liano had 17.
Javi Gomez De Liano had 11 points while Bright Akhuetie, who momentarily left the game after hyperextending his left knee, finished with 10 points.
UP captain Paul Desiderio, meanwhile, struggled for five points on two-of-six from the field.
Despite things not going for them in the end, Mr. Perasol said all is not lost for them and vowed to come out better in the next game, making full use of the break they have and crafting the needed adjustments to be able to extend the series to a winner-take-all.
“We are still positive of our chances. We still need to do some preparation which we did not have in the last few days but I’m sure we’ll be better come Wednesday,” the UP coach said.
“The break we have is a chance for us to rest and good for guys that are hurt like Bright. We have to play better defense. There were times in this game that we had them already but just could not complete them. Against Ateneo you cannot do that,” Mr. Perasol added.
In the finals, the Maroons are trying to end a 32-year championship drought.