YEARS ago, duels between Adamson and University of the Philippines were regarded as 'championship games' between perennial cellar-dwellers played in near-empty arenas.
Oh, how times have changed.
Students and alumni from San Marcelino and Diliman trooped to Cubao for the do-or-die match between the Falcons and the Maroons at the Smart Araneta Coliseum for a place opposite Ateneo in the UAAP Season 81 Finals.
And it's rightfully so, as this is easily the biggest game in recent history for these two proud campuses, both of which are vying for their first championship appearance in over two decades.
As early as 8 a.m., lines were already seen snaking around the Big Dome as spectators make last-ditch efforts to secure general admission or even standing room only tickets, which were sold hours before the game.
There was a palpable championship atmosphere outside the arena, with fans clad in either maroon or dark blue shirts unabashedly expressing their support for the two protagonists even before getting inside the venue.
It was no different inside, with fans already cheering their hearts out as drumlines boom their chants two hours before the 3:30 p.m. tip-off.
Adamson is seeking its first finals appearance since a Kenneth Duremdes-led squad finished runner-up to FEU back in 1992. The Falcons' only championship came in 1977-78 with a team led by Hector Calma.
UP, meanwhile, aims to advance to the championship series for the first time since the fabled Benjie Paras-powered crew won the UAAP title in 1986.
Wednesday's crowd is seen to easily trump the season-high 14,657 gate attendance which came at Mall of Asia Arena on Saturday for Game One.