Our boys finally did it. But the biggest battle has just begun.
For many years now, the UP Fighting Maroons and their losing record had been at the receiving end of lengthy sports analyses and even self-deprecating humor from the UP faithful. But prior to Season 81, the team had been improving its win-loss record despite being unable to climb to the top of the rankings in University Athletic Association of the Philippines’ (UAAP) men’s basketball tournament.
Season 81, however, has been a different story. Propelled by the unwavering faith of its fans from Baguio to Mindanao, alumni backing in funding and equipment, as well as the support of the UP administration, the UP Men’s Basketball Team finally scored some well-deserved victories against equally competitive opponents.
While the current season started slow for the Fighting Maroons with a three-game losing streak in the first round, Coach Bo Perasol remained positive and saw the defeats as learning experiences for the players. The second round of eliminations proved to be more fruitful for the Maroons as they clinched critical wins against UST, FEU, and DLSU to secure a third berth in the Final Four, the first since 1997. Bright Akhuetie was also awarded MVP honors, also a first since 1986.
After a nerve-wracking showdown with second-seed Adamson University, the underdog UP overcame the latter’s twice-to-beat advantage with conviction and composure emerging triumphant in two games, one in overtime. This is UP’s first UAAP Men’s Basketball Finals appearance in 32 years. The boys are now up against defending champions Ateneo Blue Eagles.
Decades after shouting “UP Fight” from the sidelines, our team has slowly but surely heeded our call. It is time for us to return the favor and intensify the support for the upcoming games. Game 1 of the UAAP Finals will be held on Saturday, December 1 at the Mall of Asia Arena. We encourage everyone to cheer our UP Fighting Maroons live in their valiant campaign to make history. #UPFight! #AtinTo! (J. Mikhail Solitario, UP MPRO)