By Luisa Morales

The University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons failed to close out their historic season strong, losing to the University of the East (UE) Red Warriors, 67-80, at the Araneta Coliseum, Sunday.

The Diliman squad kept the game close with back-and-forth shots with the Red Warriors in the first period. A buzzer-beater trey from UE’s Mark Olayon brought the Warriors up by three at the end of one, 17-20.

In the second period, at around the 8-minute mark; Red Warrior Bonbon Batallier takes an awkward fall after a lay-up. Medical teams took him out of the court in a stretcher and wouldn’t go back until the end of the quarter.

Despite Batallier’s absence, the Warriors didn’t back down. The Diliman ballers struggled, UP getting outscored 11-22. By the half, UE held a double-digit lead against the Maroons, 28-42.

It seemed to be the same story for UP at the third. The Maroons struggled to find their shot and trailed by 25 at one point in the quarter. UE was up by 21, 44-65, going into the final period.

The way UP played in the first three periods was far from what the fans were used to seeing, but by the fourth, the Maroons fought back. UP started the quarter with an electrifying 11-0 run as the Diliman crowd came alive with cheers as the lead was cut to 12 in a span of 2 minutes.

However, the lead was too big for the Maroons to overcome in the last period. Despite the strong runs from UP, the Red Warriors were able to hold the lead and win their third game of the season.

This game was considered “One Last Ride” for graduating Maroons, Jett Manuel, Dave Moralde and Henry Asilum as it was the last time the trio played for the Fighting Maroons. Manuel and Moralde indeed made the best out of their last outing, scoring 13 apiece to lead the team. Asilum had five markers in just ten minutes of action.

“This season meant so much for me because we came together when people least expected it. I’m happy to say that we ended it as a family,” said co-captain Manuel about his final run with the Maroons.

Manuel ended his season on a high note, finishing fourth in league scoring average at 15 points per game (PPG), behind only DLSU’s Ben Mbala (20.5 PPG), Jeron Teng (16.9) and his ever-explosive teammate Paul Desiderio (15.4). He also finished sixth in three-point field goals at a reliable 32.4% clip and seventh in free-throws at 77.2%

Moralde also had a crack at the league’s cream of the crop by finishing seventh in steals per game average (1.2) and tenth in free-throws (70%).

“Nakikita namin yung pagbabago ng team. Coming from [losses], slowly umaangat yung UP… Masaya ako na gagraduate ako na kasama kami sa nag-build ng winning culture sa UP,” reserve guard Asilum said. Things were different for UP in Season 79, where the team ended their run with their best record in ten years at a 5-9 win-loss slate.

“Before, parang talunan kami, pero ngayon makikita naman natin na malaki yung improvement talaga. Masaya ako sa nangyari ngayon, especially for next year,” added the veteran guard.

The seniors see a bright future for the remaining Maroons. They hope this season would be a good start for the team to feed off for the next seasons.

For the three, UP has a pretty good chance to reach the Final Four next year. #


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