THE odds are still quite long, but Season 79 presents the best chance for University of the Philippines to end a long run of futility in the UAAP.
The Maroons vow not to let the opportunity go to waste.
UP won its only UAAP championship in 1986 and the Maroons have come nowhere close to challenging for a crown since. The team last reached the Final Four in 1997 with a team led by Paolo Mendoza.
Now the Maroons are back in the hunt for a spot in the Final Four, thanks to a band of intrepid players who continue to defy expectations under new coach Bo Perasol.
"We don't want to relinquish that chance," said Perasol, a former Ateneo coach who has returned to coach his alma mater. "We will fight for that chance. We are not just going to fall back and miss that opportunity."
UP edged slumping National University on Wednesday, matching their four-win total in 2006. They have a chance to surpass it with two games left against University of Sto. Tomas and University of the East.
Although the Maroons are still a game behind fourth-placer Adamson in the Final Four race, Perasol said they will make sure the team fights for a semifinal spot.
Perasol said he is still in the process of convincing his players that they can do it.
"Wala naman kaming ginagawang extra sa ensayo namin. I think a lot of things that we do in games, it happens in our minds. Maraming bagay na iniisip namin na it has to happen first. We have to believe that we can make shots and we have to believe that we can win."
"In fact, I had to call an early timeout against NU to tell them that we need to believe that we can win. I had to remind them na nagra-rally 'yung NU, and what can we do to eventually get the win. I think we were able to do that," said Perasol.
UP's semifinal chances, however, still depend on other teams, with NU not out of the running with a 4-8 win-loss slate.
"A lot of things are no longer in our hands. I can't be a chooser. Just getting this fourth win, we are tremendously happy for this," said Perasol.
"At least, may chance kami. For that alone, we are proud," Perasol said.