IT has been a while since Ricky Dandan had entered the newly renovated press room of the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
It has also been a while since his University of the Philippines Maroons won.
“Ganito na pala itsura dito,” said the UP head coach when he began the postgame interview for winning coaches after the Maroons ended a 15-game slide that stretched back to last season by defeating University of the East, 63-48, in the UAAP seniors basketball tournament.
Rookie Henry Asilum played the hero's role, scoring all of his 14 points in the final half as the Maroons secured their first victory in over a year. Their last victory came Far Eastern University, 76-63, on August 4, 2011.
“This win is like sunshine after long dark days of torrential rains,” said Dandan. “Dito sa amin sa UP, losing hope is not an option for us. Regardless of our record, it doesn’t really reflect the struggles that we have.”
With the win, the Fighting Maroons forged a tie with UE and Adamson, which lost to league-leaders University of Santo Tomas in the first game, at the bottom of the standings with a 1-6 win-loss record.
UP's record, however, may not reflect their true performance. Three of the Maroons' six losses came in games that could have gone either way in the end game.
“Fortitude is a big word for us and I think the guys showed it in this game. I’m sure that this will propel us to a strong second round,” said Dandan.
Asilum, who was still playing for the national youth team when UP last won, scored nine points in the third quarter as the Maroons began to pull away from the Red Warriors, 50-41, entering the fourth.
“My rookie showed us the future of UP’s backcourt. He will just turn 16 and his weakness is his age. He was huge for us,” Dandan said.
UE came to within eight points with the two-minute warning nearing but Asilum assisted to Diony Hipolito for the deuce, 56-46.
Mark Lopez had 10 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals for the Maroons.
UP (63) — Asilum 14, Lopez 10, Hipolito 9, Ball 7, Montecastro 6, Romero 5, Silungan 3, Mbah 2, Wierzba 2, Soyud 2, Padilla 2, Manuel 1.
UE (48) — Sumang 18, Sumido 9, Santos 8, Duran 4, Galanza 3, Flores 3, Javier 2, Hernandez 1, Alberto 0, Belleze 0, Villarias 0, Valdez 0.
Quarterscores: 14-11, 30-26, 50-41, 63-48.