• Amar, Gallarza, Juruena finish Maroons tenure on sour note
• “We weren’t able to achieve our goal but we’re happy with the improvement. We just need to find our killer instinct”
by John Remil Isaga
It was a bitter send-off to three Fighting Maroons—Agustini Amar, JR Gallarza and Mark Juruena– who played their last UAAP game as UP loss to scrappy UE Red Warriors, 67-79, Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum.
The three already maxed out their collegiate playing years donning the Maroon jersey.
UP’s rising star Paul Desiderio carried the Maroons all game long, finishing with a career-high 26 points, 14 coming off 17 free-throws. Henry Asilum chipped in 12 points, six coming from rainbow territory. Amar and Juruena combined for 15 points and 14 boards.
A balanced attack and relentless defense sealed the deal for the Warriors. Big man Clark Derige led his team with double-double 18 points and 12 rebounds. Paul Varilla provided a late spark off the bench, finishing with 14, while captain Chris Javier provided 13 points and 6 boards.
Gallarza dove for loose balls and was efficient at clogging the UE’s fastbreak-oriented offense. Amar and Juruena drove hard to the basket getting easy shots for the Maroons. However, the Warriors retaliated and kept UP’s lead to one at the end of the first quarter.
Momentum shifted to UE at the start of the second with key baskets from Javier and Derige. Tensions ran high early on and technical fouls were called on Juruena and Javier for taunting each other.
The Maroons kept their composure as Juruena and Dave Moralde made steals and easy lay-ups to keep the game close. However, the Warriors closed out the half with 7 unanswered points as they led, 37-28.
The Warriors continued to pull away at the third through smart ball movement and shot selection, as opposed to the Maroons who relied heavily on isolation plays and resorted to tough, contested shots – a habit that has contributed heavily to their losses throughout the season.
UP tried to match UE’s fast-break game and barrelled through their feared full-court pressure defense, which resulted into multiple turnovers for the Diliman-based squad.
The Red Warriors took advantage and led by 15 with six minutes left in the third. Hustle plays by Juruena and Desiderio prevented the lead from ballooning uncontrollably, and a fast-break three by the former Batang Gilas swingman cut the deficit to eight with three minutes remaining.
UE’s guard Paul Varilla, however, continued to get and-one baskets and pushed the lead back to 14 at the end of the third.
UE continued to look for inside shots at the final canto while UP relied solely on Desiderio to create shots for the Maroons. Desiderio scored 11 of UP’s final 20 points.
Faced with an insurmountable lead with a minute remaining, head coach Rensy Bajar sent Amar, Gallarza and Juruena back into the game, letting them play for the last time as Fighting Maroons.
Amar was called for his fifth and final foul soon after, and he was cheered on by the crowd and hugged by his teammates as he exited the hardwood.
Coach Bajar said in an interview that he was still not satisfied with the team’s performance even after the Maroons finished with their best record in three seasons.
“Yung goal namin, hindi namin nakuha. But we’re happy na kahit papano ay may konting improvement. Kailangan lang talaga namin mahanap ang aming killer instinct (We weren’t able to achieve our goal but we’re happy with the improvement. We just need to find our killer instinct),” said the rookie coach.
Amar, meanwhile, was happy and content with the team’s direction moving forward, and was thankful that he was utilized well in his final season.
“Sobrang saya ko kasi nagamit ako this season (I was happy to play this season),” said the senior forward from the College of Engineering. “Mas maganda ang record namin at masaya ako na na-serve ko ang UP (We had better records and I’m glad to have served UP).”
Amar added he was very confident with the team he is leaving. “Alam ko na in the following seasons, kaya ng team na ‘to na mag-champion (I know that we can get to the championship in the following seasons).”
The Fighting Maroons end the season with a 3-11 win-loss card, tied for last place with Adamson University.
UP (67) – Desiderio 26, Asilum 12, Amar 8, Juruena 7, Manuel 6, Moralde 4, Dario 2, Gallarza 2, Kone 0, Webb 0, Vito 0, Harris 0, Jaboneta 0, Lim 0.
UE (79) – Derige 18, Varilla, P. 14, Javier 13, De Leon 8, Varilla, J. 7, Yu 5, Palma 5, Batiller 3, Manalang 3, Gagate 2, Sta. Ana 1, Charcos 0.
Quarterscores: 18-17, 28-37, 47-61, 67-79