In the first round of the UAAP Season 81, the University of the Philippines finished with a 3-4 win-loss record. Safe to say UP did not meet the lofty expectations that were set upon them.
But come the second round, the Fighting Maroons have been showing that they have grown and they can close out games now. After escaping the fierce University of Santo Tomas on Saturday, they now stand with a 7-6 record, keeping their Final Four hopes alive. Plus, their chances are still within their control, unlike the circumstances they found themselves in during Season 80.
"Sobrang saya kasi, yun nga, one step closer sa dream namin mag Final Four. Hopefully makuha namin," said Paul Desiderio.
With this, UP is peaking at the right time and super-senior ace Desiderio is nothing but ecstatic. In their game versus the Growling Tigers, he finished with 19 points, seven rebounds, and four assists.
Season 81 is Desiderio's last playing year. It is also head coach Bo Perasol's third year with the team, which is usually considered as the year when rebuilding teams reap the fruits of their hard work. This fact is something that heavily motivates Desiderio.
"Iniisip ko na lang para kay Coach Bo ito lahat. Kumbaga, gift ko na sa kaniya ito at sa community itong last year ko," he said.
Versus UST, he was seen flexing his muscles, engaging the crowd, and hugging his teammates in the dying minutes of the match. Clearly, this win was a big one for Desiderio.
"Syempre nung warmup palang nakikita ko na, first time ko nakita na wow punong puno yung UP crowd," he said referring to the thousands of fans clad in Maroon which filled most of the Araneta Coliseum.
"'Dun ako kumukuha ng motivation sa kanila. Kaya makikita mo talaga sobrang gigil ko talaga kasi gusto mo makuha yung panalo," shared Desiderio.
In addition to the UP community in attendance, his family from Cebu who watched his game live also added to his inspirations.
"Andito pa yung family, ko pumunta pa sila, every weekend andito sila. Nanay at tatay ko, andito," he added.
Desiderio and the rest of the Fighting Maroons will play their last elimination round game on Wednesday versus De La Salle University.
Follow this writer on Twitter, @the9cruz