UP Fighting Maroons Head Coach Bo Perasol was blunt in his assessment of the team’s first round performance in the University Athletics Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball tournament. “That’s the bottom line. . . . It’s not that we could have done better as far as standings [go], but we could have done better in terms of execution and cohesion.”
He acknowledged how strong the playing field this season has been thus far. And while he is happy with the team’s victories, he knows the team can still improve.
Injuries during the pre-season prevented the completion of the roster in training and matches. Bright Akhuetie, Juan Gomez de Liaño, Kobe Paras, and Ricci Rivero were unable to complete or attend some training programs because they needed to recover. So, the first round was a story of how the Fighting Maroons tried to find their way as a team. “And even with that situation, we managed to win.”
Perasol said of the four, “Bright and Kobe have shown what they can do. Juan and Ricci haven’t reached the peak of their performance yet.”
Going into the second round, he revealed the team’s expectations of raising the quality of its game because each match is more crucial to reaching the semis. There has been immense pressure on the Fighting Maroons. The coaching staff and players can feel it.
The pressure has gotten stronger since UP surged to number 3 and into the final four after last season’s second round, when it notched five more wins to add to its first round three. It grew after defeating the Adamson University Soaring Falcons twice in the semifinals to clinch the finals spot.
The Fighting Maroons know people are expecting them to reach the finals again and that the UP community dreams of a championship. “Becoming the best is not easy. We’re just starting out. Our progression has so far been good but it has also been quite tough. We’re trying very hard to get there.”
The accomplishment of the Fighting Maroons that Perasol is most proud of? Becoming relevant once again to the University community and reenergizing the Maroon crowd. “There was a heightened awareness of the team again. The UP community was giving us more support. That support and the greater expectation of us propel us to excel.”
As for the Fighting Maroons’ first game in the second round against the Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws on Sunday, October 6, Perasol said he will be “close by until the end of the game.”
He is not allowed to enter the Mall of Asia Arena because of an automatic one-game suspension following his ejection in UP’s previous match versus Ateneo de Manila University. “I have to give [this match] to Coach Ricky [Dandan]. I’m [just] going to ask him to make good decisions, but they are going to be his decisions.”
On October 4, UAAP Basketball Commissioner Jensen Ilagan denied the October 2 appeal of Perasol on the additional two-game suspension that was handed down to him on October 1. The additional penality followed the UAAP technical committee’s review of the September 29 UP-Ateneo match, where Perasol charged into the playing court and confronted referee Jaime Rivano.
The Fighting Maroons head coach will be playing the waiting game while other legal options are being explored.