PAUL Desiderio and Jun Manzo may have come from different batches in the University of the Visayas during their time in the Cesafi, but they made sure to bring the grit Cebuano players are known for to the University of the Philippines.
That couldn’t have been more evident than in the Maroons' thrilling 89-87 overtime win over the Adamson Falcons that ended State U's 32-year absence from the UAAP Finals.
“You can see it in them that they were so fatigued pero nakikita mo sa kanila na hindi tayo hihinto,” said UP head coach Bo Perasol of the gritty pair. “They made layups, Paul made a jumpshot, and it’s just a reflection of who this team is.”
Desiderio shrugged off a bad shooting night to score the final five points for the Fighting Maroons to tow his squad to the heart-stopping victory, hitting his final two baskets after making just two of his previous 18 shots.
Manzo, who followed Desiderio’s footsteps from UV to UP, never doubted that Desiderio can deliver when the game is on the line.
“Given naman sa kanya yun e,” said Manzo. “Pag sa dulo na, si Paul talaga hindi yan nahihiya, kahit marami siyang mintis nasa utak niya parang sinasabi niya sa sarili niya na kaya yun i-shoot.”
But Desiderio’s game-clinching baskets wouldn't have happened if not for Manzo's heroics late in regulation.
Like Desiderio, Manzo struggled the whole game, going scoreless before snagging four crucial points at crunch time, including what could have been the dagger basket with 10.7 seconds remaining to give UP a 78-75 lead.
Manzo said defense, specifically on Adamson top gun Jerick Ahanmisi, was his top priority in the game.
“Unang-una ang iniisip ko ma-stop ko si Ahanmisi, kung di siya makaka-score, mas mabuti sa akin,” said Manzo. “Maalat talaga e, pero di naman araw-araw makaka-shoot ka. Sinasabi ko lang sa sarili ko na defense muna bago offense."
Desiderio said the trust is mutual.
“Di ako nag-doubt sa taong yun kaya kinuha ko yung galing sa Cebu kasi malaki ko sa kanya,” said Desiderio. “May tiwala ako kay Jun na kaya niyang mag-perform.”