IT takes some special guts for someone to take the biggest shot in the closing seconds with the hopes of the community behind him.
Luckily for UP, Paul Desiderio has that.
With the hopes of a long-suffering community on his shoulders and against someone who has proved to be their bane in the past, the Cebuano guard rose up and drilled the booming fadeaway jumper over the outstretched arms of Sean Manganti with 6.6 seconds remaining.
That bucket gave the Fighting Maroons the go-ahead 89-87 Game Two overtime victory against the Adamson Falcons on Wednesday and, in turn, sent the boys from Diliman to their first Finals appearance in over three decades.
"Wala, walang play yun. Nasa kanya lang talaga yun," said coach Bo Perasol, who's as amazed as everyone with the guts Desiderio has to take those crucial baskets. "Makapal lang talaga ang mukha nito. Gusto niya lang talaga na akuin eh."
Playing in what was possibly his final collegiate game, Desiderio stared at his doubters and shunned what has been an off-shooting night after starting off 2-of-18 from the field.
And he made sure to make those shots that matter count, first an open three with 41.3 ticks remaining to give UP an 89-87 lead, and once again his brave jumper that propelled his side to heights long forgotten and himself to the same level of heroes and legends of old.
"Nakikita mo na naman na ang dami niyang mintis before that, pero alam niya na for the win, aakuin niya na. Siya lagi ang nagsasabi na, 'Kaya pa natin ito. Wag tayong magduda.' Even with Juan (Gomez de Liano) and nakita mo yung pagod ni Bright (Akhuetie), but then again, when you want to go in a place like this, this is not an easy place and the road is not easy going here, so you have to find the courage, you have to find the skills, the talents, the persistence to be in a place like this that we are enjoying right now. It wasn't an easy journey, but it's all worth it," said Perasol.
For Desiderio, he only had one thing in mind when he took the shot.
"Nasa isip ko lang, 'Atin ito.'," repeating to himself his now famous words which have also turned to UP's battlecry in this improbable ascent to the championship series.
"Inaako ko lang naman kung anong responsibilidad namin sa team. Win or lose, kami nasisisi so kung pasok, eh di nasa Finals kami. Kung hindi, aakuin ko naman yun."
Desiderio also credited some inspiring words told to him by Chooks-to-Go president and UP alumnus Ronald Mascarinas days before the crucial series.
"Last week kasi pumunta ako sa office ni boss Ronald at na-kwento niya sa akin yung buhay niya. Doon ako na inspire at sinabi niya sa akin na 'Never give up. Kahit anong mangyari, kahit down ka man o ano, wag kang susuko dahil may magandang mapupuntahan ka pag di ka sumuko.'," he said.
Good thing for Desiderio, he never did.
And now, he, together with the rest of the UP community, can reap the rewards of his handiwork.
"Ang tagal na itong hinintay ng community. Para sa UP ang lahat ng sakripisyong ito," he said.