It’s all over – The UP Fighting Maroons finally exorcised 2 seasons of worth of losing, beating fellow Season 77 bottom-dwellers Adamson Soaring Falcons for their first win in 28 games. UP’s maddeningly inconsistent point guard Mikee Reyes came through with maybe his finest game in a Maroon jersey, torching AdU for 28 points on 48% shooting. J.R. Gallarza stepped up big time for UP as well, contributing a ridiculously efficient 24 points on 12 shots. AdU veterans Celedonio Trollano and Jansen Rios would toss in 24 and 20 points, respectively, for their team in another disappointing loss for the Soaring Falcons.
The Maroons looked hungrier for a win straight from the opening tip-off, racing out to a quick 4-0 lead on a J.R. Gallarza bucket. Adamson’s Jansen Rios immediately struck back, dissecting UP’s defence for 7 points, capped with a thunderous fast-break dunk. UP’s oft-criticized Mikee Reyes ended the Falcons’ run with 5 straight markers, and Gallarza pumped in 5 more of his own to end the quarter 17-13 in the Maroons’ favour. The 10-0 Reyes and Gallarza burst turned out to be a sign of things to come for the beleaguered ADU squad.
Gallarza would score 6 consecutive points to start the second, and wound up tossing in 11 total in the period. Reyes would chip in 7 as the success-starved UP ballers looked to pull away from the rapidly deflating Falcons. Seasoned AdU vet Trollano propped his team’s spirits, and their chances, with 8 points of his own in the second. With the Maroons threatening to carry a double-digit lead into the lockers at half-time, Falcons starting point guard Ryan Monteclaro hit a long-range bomb to keep Adamson within striking distance, 40-32.
Adamson Head Coach Kenneth Duremdes had to be reasonably confident of his team’s chances at the end of the break, as the Maroons were arguably the worst 3rd quarter team in the entire league. There would be no such luck for the unfortunate Falcons. Mikee Reyes went supernova in the third, hitting 4/5 shots en route to a scorching 11 points in the quarter. Reyes and the increasingly confident Fighting Maroons strangled the hope out of Adamson with an 18-2 barrage. By the 6:30 mark of the third period, with the Maroons up 50-32, the disbelieving UP crowd was on their feet, chanting “Bonfire! Bonfire!” at UP Team Manager Dan Palami. The unflappable Trollano made sure UP’s advantage would not balloon past 18, combining with Rios and big man Ivan Villanueva for 9 late points, keeping the score pegged at 64-46 entering the final period.
Rios and Trollano would again give Adamson a fighting chance in the fourth, as the Falcons’ star duo poured in 11 points in a 14-6 spurt that would trim the Maroons’ lead to 10 points, 70-60, with 2 minutes to play. The UP crowd, burned by 27 straight losses, turned deathly silent as the ADU section exploded in raucous cheers. With their pride on the line, the Maroons’ J.R. Gallarza rose to the occasion with a clutch dagger from downtown, extending UP’s lead to 13. A despondent Adamson would resort to tactically fouling the UP squad, but former Rookie of the Year Kyles Lao, who finished with 10 points on 9 shots, and Jarrell Lim would sink their charity shots, and the Falcons’ hopes with it. With the Maroons up an unbelievable 77-64, the jubilant UP crowd would erupt into cheers as the final buzzer sounded on UP’s long-awaited victory.
The UP players would immediately console their despondent Adamson counterparts post-game. After all, if any team knows the pain of losing, it is the Fighting Maroons. Tonight however, they go home winners.
“This was my first win since 2009. It’s a big thing for me. As pathetic as it sounds, masarap, masarap nga ito,” said UP’s Mikee Reyes.