ANTIPOLO — With University of the Philippines down by as much as 12 points in the fourth period against Adamson University, Jun Manzo knew that he needed to step up for the betterment of the team.
“Inisip ko lang na kailangan talaga naming manalo. Parang ito na ‘yung last game ko.”
The Cebuano guard took charge, scoring seven baskets in the last seven minutes of the game. His 17 points helped drag UP towards the finish line ahead of the Soaring Falcons with an 81-77 victory, Sunday night at the Ynares Center.
With the win secured, Manzo then sank down and broke into tears. Such is the weight on the Fighting Maroons’ shoulders this season to end a three-decade-long title drought, that another loss this season could ruin that dream.
“When I saw Jun inside, I thought he was very tired. I was asking my coaches if he’s tired because I need to sub him out. The face was just the look of a very stressed person because he badly wanted to win this game,” recalled UP head coach Bo Perasol.
Meanwhile, the 22-year-old added, “Kasi iniisip namin ngayon kung matalo kami, baka wala na kaming tsansang maging number two. Kung ma-sweep ng Ateneo, mahihirapan na kami kasi maglalaban ‘yung three and four eh.
“Ito yung susi para makabalik ulit kami sa Finals.”
As a point guard in a star-studded team that has the likes of Ricci Rivero, Kobe Paras, Bright Akheutie, and Juan and Javi Gomez de Liano, Manzo knows that he needs to guide his comrades through the tightest of situations for them to pull through. And tonight, they marked their campaign with another landmark result.
“Sinabi ko lang sa kanila na ‘wag tayong mag-relax. Kasi ‘yung sa UST, mga one minute, lamang kami ng apat, nag-relax kami. So parang sayang. Inisip ko lang na dapat hindi na ulit mangyari ‘yon,” said the 5-foot-9 guard.
For his part, Perasol lauded his veteran for showing determination to win and leadership throughout the contest. It was a perfect demonstration of why Manzo is the foundation upon which the Fighting Maroons’ potential glory is built.
“The most important aspect of this — although this is a big win for us — we need to focus on the next one, because this is going to go for naught if we’re not going to catch up with the others,” said Perasol.
“But we just have to be thankful for the Lord with this win, and for Jun for making this happen also.”
While he received plenty of plaudits for his role in the Fighting Maroons’ latest win, Manzo prefers to shrug off the praise. There is a bigger task at hand, and that is making it to the post-season, which they hope to end with a trophy.
“It’s not about me naman, it’s about the whole team naman. So kung magtulungan lang kami palagi, malayo ang maabot namin.”