UAAP: Finals berth is nice, but mission not yet complete for Bright Akhuetie and UP
Santino Honasan on Nov 29, 2018 11:45 AM
"We are going to get ready for the next step because this is not it, we still have one more to go. This is another step closer to achieving that, so letís not just sit back and say that this is it." - Bright Akhuetie
For the first time in over three decades, University of the Philippines is headed to the UAAP Men's Basketball finals.
The Fighting Maroons lived up to their "Atin 'To" mantra and survived a thrilling do-or-die classic against Adamson University that even required an extra five minutes of action, Wednesday evening at the Araneta Coliseum.
In the end however, the night belonged to the Diliman.
Now, UP meets the defending champions and the number-one seeded Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles in a Finals series that has been dubbed as "The War of Katipunan."
And as ecstatic and as jubilant as the players and the community deserve to be - especially after breaking a 32-year finals drought - simply making it into the finals isn't the ultimate goal. Hoisting the title is, and to get there, there's more work to be done.
That's precisely why instead of celebrating, the Maroons were told to get some much needed rest.
"Despite the whole celebration and all, everyone being happy, like coach said, we just have to go back, get some rest and start over today again, because Saturday’s just here," UP big man Bright Akhuetie told ABS-CBN Sports. "We have a long time to rest, so we just have to go back and work on the stuff we need to work on against Ateneo."
"All this time, we’ve been focused on Adamson, now it’s time to go back and start again against Ateneo. Watch our past games, and see the adjustments we have to do, because it’s gonna be tough, no doubt," he continued.
Akhuetie, the season's Most Valuable Player, revealed that there wasn't even time for a little get together after the historic feat.
Rest and preparation was paramount for the Fighting Maroons, who are still looking to make even more history this season, especially since the job isn't done yet.
"That was what Coach Bo [Perasol] actually said. We didn’t even have a team dinner or celebration, he told everybody to go home, get enough rest, and we’ll be here [for practice] 5:00 PM tomorrow."
It's easy to get distracted after a historic and emotionally-charged win like what UP accomplished, Wednesday night. By any account, this season will be their best in decades, and this will be their first Finals appearance since the UAAP switched to the Final Four format.
But again, much like the mindset of most teams and athletes, it's a failed season unless you bring home a championship.
[Coach Bo] just tried to put it in our heads and let us know that this is what it is, we’re not celebrating anything," Akhuetie continued. "We are going to get ready for the next step because this is not it, we still have one more to go. This is another step closer to achieving that, so let’s not just sit back and say that this is it."
In their past two meetings this season, Ateneo has gotten the better of their Katipunan neighbors, and heading into the season's finale, UP are considered as the underdogs.
Akhuetie knows that to be able to compete and beat the Blue Eagles, it's going to take a team effort from everyone, all #16Strong.
"We all have to be ready, we all have to come out and play because, even the guys that come off the bench, they have to come into the game and bring food to the table because the first five guys can’t do it alone," he expressed. "We need all these people, and I’m sure we’ll do good. I’m sure we’ll do good."
The UAAP Finals begins on Saturday, December 1st at 3:30 PM. Catch it LIVE on ABS-CBN channel 2, ABS-CBN S+A channel 23, ABS-CBN S+A HD channel 166, iWant, and on LIVESTREAMING.