UAAP: First, the Maroons 'Bo-lieved' and now, so does the UP community

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Nov 28, 2018 09:12 PM
The Maroons 'Bo-lieved' and now, so does the UP community
Coach Bo Perasol and UP didn't stop believing in themselves

The UAAP Season 81 Men’s Basketball Tournament was always supposed to be a breakthrough season for the University of the Philippines.

Now in their third-year under head coach Bo Perasol, it was Final Four or bust.

Still, there aren't many people who thought that their breakthrough would go on this far – as far as the Finals, in fact. “That was the plan, but it was just on paper – na third year, probably, we’re going to the Final Four,” he told reporters after the third-seed Fighting Maroons booted out second-seed Adamson University on Wednesday.

He then continued, "Never did I imagine that we would be in the Finals.”

After dispatching the Soaring Falcons, State U will play in its first championship round since 1986.

And from the start, the only ones who believed they would be here was the UP team itself. “I just had a bunch of guys who refused to lose, to entertain any doubts about losing. They just kept on fighting,” coach Bo said.

In the pre-season, second-year stud Juan Gomez de Liano guaranteed a playoff berth.

Of course, at 3-5 at the midway mark of the season, things were not going the way of UP.

From there, though, they seem to have flipped a switch and have gone 7-1 – including back-to-back wins at the expense of erstwhile twice-to-beat Adamson. “The process of building a winning team, it has to go through this. When we recruit marquee players, ang tendency nyan is magpapogi sila, but at the end of the day, you have to encourage them that’s it’s not just about you,” their mentor shared.

He then continued, “It’s all about the team. Bawasan natin yung magpapogi if we want to win. We realized that sa middle ng season and the boys have just responded well.”

The contests opposite the Soaring Falcons were close all the way through, but courtesy of heroics from Season MVP Bright Akhuetie and then team captain Paul Desiderio, the Fighting Maroons have a shot at their first title in 32 years.

Only, in the Finals, they are bound for a head-on collision with Ateneo de Manila University – the defending champions who haven’t lost a game since the end of the first round.

Nonetheless, State U continues to believe – and, more specifically, to “Bo-lieve.” As coach Bo himself put it, “Ang burden kasi is not just about winning the game, but all about making an impact to a community that is very hungry for winning. Alam mo na, 30 years ay butt of jokes kasi walang bragging rights.”

He then continued, “At least ngayon, nagkakaroon na sila ng bragging rights.”

And even though they are heavy underdogs up against the well-oiled machine of the Blue Eagles, the architect of UP’s return to relevance said they relish that position. “No basketball aficionado in his right mind would give us a good chance against Ateneo, but we want that.  We want that tag that UP doesn’t stand a chance against Ateneo,” he said.

He then continued, “That is something that’s going to keep up going forward.”

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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