Photo by Keith Magcaling
Text by Luisa Morales
It’s been one hell of a ride for the Fighting Maroons.
In their last game of the season, the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons dominated the National University (NU) Bulldogs in a blowout win, 106-81, today in the UAAP Season 80 men’s basketball tournament at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.
The win resulted in State U’s best outing of the season, finishing the game with five Maroons scoring double figures. UP skipper Paul Desiderio and the Gomez de Liaño brothers tied their career high in scoring with 30, 22 and 17 respectively.
Center Ibrahim Outtara packaged a double-double with 12 points and 13 boards. Juan and Javi also contributed 13 and 10 rebounds apiece.
However, the Maroons fell short of a shot for the Final Four, with the Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws booking the last spot after winning against Adamson University.
It was all UP from the get-go, relying on their stingy defense and hot shooting to put themselves at the forefront throughout the game.
Both teams started strong in the first canto, going back-and-forth in the first few minutes. The Bulldogs tasted their first and only lead early in the first, 13-11 courtesy of a Manuel Mosqueda bucket.
It didn’t take long for the Maroons to pull away. Triggered by nine straight points from Desiderio, UP caught fire to end the first with a double digit lead, 34-21.
By the second period, both teams traded baskets but the Bulldogs failed to lessen the gap and UP ended the half still leading by 13, 58-45.
It was the same story for the Maroons post-half. Going into the third without losing momentum, UP outscored NU 26-15 and the lead ballooned to 24 with ten minutes left in the game.
Despite the huge advantage, UP continued to play all out. Graduating captain Andrew Harris scored a bucket to help State U reach the 100-mark.
The last few minutes of the match saw contributions from other outgoing seniors Paolo Romero and Rob Ricafort to end the game with UP’s largest lead, 106-81.
With UP’s season coming to a close, four Diliman ballers–Ibrahim Ouattara, Romero, Ricafort and Harris–end their career with the Fighting Maroons with the emphatic win.
“I really have mixed feelings about this game. This is just a fitting farewell for these valiant guys,” UP head coach Bo Perasol said.
The seniors reflected on giving their all, regardless if it was their last game or not.
“We wanted to make sure that we came out and played our best. It doesn’t matter how many minutes we played, every time we’re on the court binigay namin ang lahat,” Ricafort said.
Despite not qualifying for the final four, it was a happy way to end the season for the team.
UP finishes the season in fifth place with a 6-8 win-loss record, making it State U’s best record since 2006.