The atmosphere inside the SM Mall of Asia Arena was euphoric on Wednesday evening as the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons exorcised a 21-year Final Four curse.
There were hugs all around and tears wept. Finally, UP are now part of the elite.
But even if their win against the De La Salle Green Archers, which clinches the third seed, turned out to be a rout by halftime, the moment of leading the Fighting Maroons to the Final Four only set in for Bo Perasol during the singing of the school hymn. And it was not because of the huge celebration the frenzied crowd were in.
“Actually, hindi ko pa naiisip kanina but when I looked at the big scoreboard while we were singing the hymn,” Perasol disclosed.
“Nakita ko may asterisk kami, naiyak ako eh.”
For the past 21 years, the Fighting Maroons have never had that asterisk. By the 13th game of the season, the TV graphics would have already had the “UP Fighting Maroons” discolored in black-and-white, signifying that they were already out of contention.
This time around, they have that *.
Even when Perasol was with the Ateneo Blue Eagles from Seasons 76-78, the former UP player always bled Maroon.
“Even when I was in Ateneo, my heart went to UP,” he disclosed.
During the game itself, it was hard for Perasol to separate himself from UP coach and UP fan. The Fighting Maroons poured their heart out for 40 minutes, as they badly wanted to make the community proud.
“It just happened that I was part of the audience watching them. I coached less and made sure to make just quick reminders. It was all them,” Perasol gushed.
“They were able to grasp the idea of being able to make history.”
And it was all because of Perasol’s vision for this team that he started from scratch.
Perasol, who took over the UP Men’s Basketball Team back in 2016, started his reign in sixth place with a 5-9 record. A season later, UP finished in fifth place with a 6-8 slate.
This time around, Perasol has steered UP to the third seed, as the Fighting Maroons sit at 8-6, thanks to a superior quotient over the Green Archers and the FEU Tamaraws.
If this is a dream, he surely does not want to wake up.
“Now it was the reality. The asterisk says it all.”