WITH a ticket to the Final Four at stake, the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons focused on what damage they can do to the De La Salle University Green Archers, rather than get distracted with whatever game plan the latter had for them.
The plan worked in spades as the Fighting Maroons ran roughshod over the Green Archers, winning by a mile, 97-81, to end their 21-year absence from the Final Four.
The three Cesafi products, namely skipper Paul Desiderio, Jun Manzo and Janjan Jaboneta, that started against La Salle, shared that head coach Bo Perasol urged them to take advantage of the moment, one that does not come around all too often.
“Coach said to just enjoy the game kasi hindi namin alam kung kailan ulit magkaka-chance sa ganun na situation. Hayaan na ang plano ng DLSU para sa amin basta kami gagawin namin ang kung ano ang may control kami,” shared Jaboneta, who helped anchor UP’s defense on La Salle’s potent perimeter players.
Manzo, the second-year transferee from the University of the Visayas, could not find the words to describe how he felt to be part of the team that finally ended the long Final Four drought.
“Sobrang saya hindi ko ma explain yung nararamdam ko ngayon, 21 years sobrang tagal na hinihintay na pumasok sa Final Four. Lahat ng sakit at hirap na dinaanan namin as a team nag bunga rin sa wakas pero hindi pa tapos ang laban!” said Manzo.
Desiderio, the Fighting Maroons’ veteran guard who has had to sacrifice the most after being named to the Mythical Five team last season, said it’s all been worth it.
“It’s been extremely difficult. This being my last year in the UAAP, you really want to make the most out of everything but it’s all been worth it,” shared the pride of Liloan.
As jubilant as the team and the entire community was after their win over La Salle, the Maroons are well aware of the uphill battle that lies ahead. Apart from the fact that they have yet to win against Adamson this season, the Falcons also hold a twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four.
“Kailangan lang namin ibigay ang lahat katulad kanina play as a team, wag namin isipin kung ano ang gagawin ng Adamson, ang isipin namin kung ano ang magagawa namin sa kanila,” said Manzo..
The upcoming match-up also features an intriguing clash of two teams that boast of numerous players from the south.
The Falcons have five Cesafi products in Ivan Maata, Conrad Catapusan, Koko Pingoy, Jed Colonia and Michael Macion. The Fighting Maroons on the other hand, have four.
“May the best Bisaya win,” said Manzo with a chuckle.