THERE is just something about Paul Desiderio’s confidence heading into this UAAP season that is so reassuring for fans of the University of the Philippines.
Given the opportunity to prove that this is indeed his team on the very first game of Season 80, Desiderio decided to make the moment his.
The fourth-year guard drained a cold-blooded three pointer with 1.4 seconds left in the game to steer University of the Philippines to a thrilling victory on Sunday over University of Sto. Tomas at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Misfiring for the whole game, Desiderio was still confident enough to take matters into his own hands late in the game, with the Growling Tigers right on the attack at clutch.
Before making his last two shots, the Cebuano combo guard only made four of his 18 attempts from the field, but that didn’t stop him from taking responsibility for his squad’s fate in the endgame, which only goes to show his willingness to lead his team to greater things.
“Andami ko nang tinira e. Mahihiya pa ba ako? Last shot na e. Sayang naman. Sabi naman ni coach Bo pag open, itira ko na. Kaya tinira ko na buti nalang pumasok,” Desiderio said in jest.
Desiderio tied the match at 70, soaring over Vaughn Soriano to make the tightly contested shot with 38.5 seconds left and swing the momentum back to UP’s favor.
Two free throws from Marvin Lee with 5.3 seconds left gave the Tigers the lead back at 73-71, but all that did was set the stage for Desiderio’s heroics which curled off two screens and confidently drained the three pointer over two defenders.
That shot got him raves from his head coach in Bo Perasol, revealing that Desiderio called that shot to go in.
“Hindi ko alam how he does that but during the timeout, he called it. Ibig sabihin, papasok ito,” said Perasol.
“Sinabi niya na ‘coach mananalo tayo, papasok tong tira na’to’ cause my instruction was if they’re open at the three point area, take it.”
That type of confidence brews from months of preparation both with UP and his PBA D-League squad CafeFrance where he focused on his outside shooting.
That’s why despite the fact that he’s been missing, Desiderio had no problems pulling the trigger, cause he’s actually been walking the talk for months now.
“Siyempre matagal ko nang pinapractice yung three point shot. Laging sinasabi ni coach Bo na pagpractice-an ko talaga. Sabi ko sa sarili ko papasok to. Nag timeout palang si coach Bo sinabi ko na sa kanila nap ag open ako ibigay niyo kasi ititra ko talaga,” he said.
If he was bold enough to take the game winner despite missing all but five of his 19 attempts prior it, then he’s brave enough to believe that they’ll be making the final four this season.
“Nung di pa nagstart yung season, lagi kong sinasabi na papasok kami ng final four. So atleast, first game palang, naipakita na namin na kaya namin.”