by John Remil Isaga
After suffering three straight losses to open Season 79, the UP Fighting Maroons Men’s Basketball Team are finally back on the win column after a 75-71 victory over the winless UE Red Warriors.
It was a battle of scoring runs to open the first half. After UE shot out of warm-ups with a 13-3 run, UP answered with a run of their own to close out the quarter with only a three-point deficit, 19-16, thanks to key baskets by UP returnee Kyles Lao and co-captain Jett Manuel.
UP carried on its momentum to the second quarter with a barrage of threes from Manuel. At one point, the Maroons led by ten, 29-19, after trailing by ten in the first. However, sticking true to its name as the Warriors, UE launched a 16-3 run courtesy of its scrappy sophomore guard Bonbon Batiller. At the half, UE led 37-34.
The third quarter showed why these two teams are evenly matched, as they played tug-of-war with the lead. UP showcased its trademark perimeter shooting paired with Paul Desiderio’s relentless slashing. Meanwhile, the scrappy cagers from Sampaloc employed its terrifying pressure defense, making a simple inbound of the ball and crossing half-court tall task for the Maroons.
More lead trading occurred in the final frame until the final two minutes. Momentum swung back to the Diliman-based ballers as reserve guard Jarrell Lim buried a three, as the lead rose to 71-69 in favor of the Maroons. Sensing a possible win, the UP bench and fans alike jumped out of their seats in excitement – in stark contrast to the first three games.
The incoming win became more apparent as Manuel and swingman Dave Moralde played unfazed and sank crucial free-throws like they were only for practice. UE could only watch as the clock ran out while Desiderio jumped to embrace Coach Bo Perasol, who has now earned his first coaching victory for his alma mater.
Happy as Manuel may be, he also noted that at the end of the day, they have ten games to go.
“We were down three games and with this being my final year in UP, it was very frustrating, so medyo emotional ‘yung win na ‘to,” said the fifth-year shooting guard. “I still know that there are ten games left. We have a long way to go. It’s just a hump that we needed to get over.”
Coming off his controversial post-game comments after the loss to UST, Desiderio was satisfied that his teammates stepped up.
“Ngayong laro, sobrang saya ko na napalabas namin yung gigil namin. Sana magtuluy-tuloy,” said the third-year guard/forward.
Manuel aend Desiderio led the Maroons with 17 points apiece. Desiderio also grabbed ten rebounds en route to a double-double finish. Morald chipped in 13 points in only 19 minutes of action. UP’s rookie Javier Gomez de Liano added seven points after scoring 15 against UST. Co-captain Andrew Harris contributed four points and a season-high ten rebounds and three steals.
UP will next face the defending champion FEU Tamaraws this Sunday, 2 PM at the Araneta Coliseum.