By Karlitos Brian Decena
After 18 consecutive losses, the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons emerged victorious on the hard court, thrashing the University of the East Red Warriors, 69-61, in their first basketball game of the 74th season of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Thursday at the Araneta Coliseum.
Guard Mike Gamboa dropped 19 points for UP, while forward Mike Silungan chipped in 15 points and four steals for the Maroons, whose last taste of victory was a 83-78 triumph over the De La Salle Green Archers in 2009.
“(We finally got) the so-called monkeys off our back now,” said UP coach Ricky Dandan. “I feel more relieved.”
The Maroons jumped the gun early, hitting long bombs and forcing turnovers to seize a 22-11 lead in the first quarter.
Since then, the Maroons never came back, with its biggest lead ballooning to 13 points, 48-35, via Gamboa’s breakaway layup in the 6:20 mark of the third period.
The Red Warriors, led by Paul Zamar’s 14 points, tried to claw their way back in the game by trimming the Maroons lead down to six with just three minutes left in the fourth quarter, but Gamboa rifled a crucial triple that sealed the victory for UP.
“We’ve all been waiting for this,” said Silungan. “It feels good to win.”
Meanwhile, the UP Lady Maroons also scored a victory in their opening game, drubbing Wednesday the UE Amazons, 64-52, at the women’s basketball competitions at the Blue Eagle Gym.
Kryzza Casiño propelled the Lady Maroons with her double-double performance, scoring 12 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. She also dished out six assists for the Lady Maroons.