The Fighting Maroons have exorcised the last of their demons.
The University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons finally defeated the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers after 19 games, 74-69, Sunday afternoon at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan City.
The win keeps UP afloat in the playoff race, while eliminating the season-hosts from Final Four contention. Moreover, the five wins the Fighting Maroons currently have right now are the most wins they have compiled in a decade.
“Di naman namin iniisip yan e. Mas malakas yung dating na 19 games na di namin natalo yung UST. Binanggit ko yun sa kanila,” first-year UP head coach Bo Perasol said about the pre-game pep talk he had with his troops.
“What we really wanted that resulted to this win is that we were able to generate excitement to the UP community,” he added, as almost three-quarters of the arena was filled with maroon-clad shirts.
Third-year guard Paul Desiderio flirted with a triple-double as he tallied 16 points, 13 rebounds, and seven assists.
“Pinu-push ko lang teammates ko. Kahit mag mintis okay lang basta sundan namin yung gameplan,” the third-year Cebuano shared.
But it was his batchmate Kyles Lao who helped break the game wide-open during the third frame. The former Rookie of the Year sparked an 11-0 rally, scoring all six of his points during that run, that turned a 36-all game into an 11-point lead with 3:56 left in the third frame.
“I’m really happy. It’s giving the fans the win they deserve. All throughout sa stay ko sa UP, ito yun iniintay ng fans,” the former Xavier High School standout said. “We’re now a step closer in what we’re trying to do and achieve.”
Graduating Maroons Henri Asilum and Dave Moralde then pushed the UP lead even further to start the final frame, extending UP’s margin to a game-high 15 points, 63-48, with 8:10 left.
UST’s problem was compounded after King Tiger Louie Vigil fouled out of the game with six minutes still left in the game. Vigil finished the game with 16 points and eight rebounds.
But even with their captain disqualified, the Growling Tigers kept pushing. The duo of Jeepy Faundo and Zachary Huang played with vigor. A jumper by the latter with a minute remaining sliced the lead to just three, 69-66.
With his team cooling down from the field, Desiderio took matters into his own hands as he drove to the lane for a tough lay-up, which turned it into a two-possession game. A split on the stripe by Faundo was answered by a free throw by Jett Manuel to seal the game.
“Yung character ba ng team, there was some sort of composure and poise on our part. UST kept pushing us with runs and we were able to stop it. I’m just hoping in the last game agaisnt UE, we’ll have the same composure,” Perasol shared.
Even if King Maroon Manuel struggled from the field, shooting just 2-of-13, all but two of the 14 Maroons who played were able to score.
Huang scored a career-high 13 points for UST, while Faundo added a double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds.
The UP Fighting Maroons (5-8) play their final game of the season on Sunday, November 13, against the University of the East Red Warriors. On the other hand, the UST Growling Tigers (3-9) look to play spoilers as they face the Adamson University Soaring Falcons on Wednesday, November 9.
UP (74) – Desiderio 16, Webb 9, Manuel 8, Dario 6, De Liano 6, Lao 6, Moralde 6, Vito 5, Asilum 3, Harris 3, Lim 3, Prado 3, Espanola 0, Romero 0.
UST (69) – Vigil 16, Huang 13, Faundo 10, Lee 9, Sheriff 8, Lao 5, Basibas 4, Subido 4, Afoakwah 0, Caunan 0, De Guzman 0, Macasaet 0.
Quarterscores: 14-12, 31-30, 53-47, 74-69.