JUAN Gomez de Liano will be the first to admit that he packs extra-motivation every time he goes up against Ateneo.
Now he gets another shot at his former school in the biggest stage of all.
"I'm just excited. I'm really excited to face them again. I can't wait for Saturday," said Gomez de Liano on Thursday, two days before University of the Philippines takes on the Blue Eagles in the UAAP Season 81 Finals at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The sophomore sensation spent his early years in Ateneo but never got a chance to play for the juniors squad upon finishing grade school. He was then picked up by UP Integrated School where he begun his rise to UAAP stardom.
Facing the Blue Eagles in the first round, De Liano dropped 29 points in their 87-79 loss. He was down with a fever in their second round match-up and was limited to just five points in the Maroons' 83-66 blowout loss.
Now healthy and brimming with confidence after UP won six consecutive games since the elimination round to enter the finals, de Liano said the Maroons will be a much better team from the last time they played Ateneo.
"Last time we faced them, I had a very high fever, I wasnt really able to play. As a team we didn't play UP basketball. I think we're a different team now," said De Liano.
De Liano had a career night in their 87-85 win over Adamson on Wednesday, firing 30 points in the victory though he struggled with foul trouble for the whole game.
He and the Maroons didn't have much time to celebrate, with the finals just days away.
"After games we usually celebrate like we go out as a team, but after that game we really had no time to celebrate, we had to get rested because we have a lot of work to do," said de Liano.
After losing twice to the defending champions in the elims, de Liano said there isn't much room for error if the Maroons hope to pull off an upset.
"Ateneo is just a very disciplined team. When you play them, you cant stop playing defense because they're so disciplined. We have to go out and defend their shooters, like Anton Assistio," said de Liano.
"We have to keep on the pace, be aggresssive and be more disciplined against them."