The UP Fighting Maroons finally clinch a spot in the UAAP Final Four after a two decade drought.
University of the Philippines shocked De La Salle in a one-sided match with a final score of 97-81 in the elimination round of the UAAP Season 81 men’s basketball tournament last Wednesday at Mall of Asia Arena.
The Fighting Maroons took charge, 23-17, in the first quarter and seized the entire game to finally snag their spot in the semis as the Green Archers barely kept up.
UP now sports a tied 8-6 record with DLSU but the former clinched the third spot due to a superior quotient over latter.
Juan Gomez De Liaño led the way with 27 points to carry the Fighting Maroons’ offense. His older brother Javi chipped in 19 points.
Bright Akhuetie bossed around the paint to finish a double-double of 16 points and 20 rebounds.
The Green Archers squad was led by Justine Baltazar with 22 points and seven caroms while Aljun Melecio added 19 points to go with 6 assists.
“I reminded the players about us not having any accolades in the past decades and this is a golden chance to make history and so they did,” said UP head coach Bo Perasol.
Perasol, a former Fighting Maroon, said it’s a personal burden for him to deliver for the UP community.
He shared the surreal moment when he saw in the giant scoreboard that indicated UP clinching its spot in the Final Four.
“I was in tears,” he said.
The veteran coach took over as UP’s head coach in May 2, 2016 after spending three seasons with Ateneo. One of his earlier stints was with the UPIS basketball team in 2003. Afterwards, he held posts in professional leagues initially coaching Air21, Coca-Cola/Powerade – both defunct PBA squads from 2005 to 2012.
At the start of the season, basketball analysts put UP, who trained in Serbia, among the Final Four favorites. The UP Fighting Maroons are supported by Gov. Jonvic Remulla, J.J. Atencio, 3M, Robinson’s Supermarket, Handyman and Caesar Wongchuking of Mighty Sports.
UP is now set to match up against the second-seeded Adamson Falcons in the upcoming semis round next week.
(Featured photo by Cleverlyn Mayuga)