MANILA, Philippines – The UP Fighting Maroons continued to give out surprises after a close 79-88 loss to the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the UAAP Season 81 Finals Game 1.
Yes, a 9-point win is a close one by standards of Ateneo, which has indiscriminately blown out teams, contenders and bottom-dwellers alike.
However, while UP fans take solace in the fact that it could have been worse, head coach Bo Perasol thought it could have been a win.
"What we need to do is we need to be better on defense," he said. "There were a lot of times that we had them already but at the end of the shot clock, they were still able to get three-point shots and that hurt us."
"If I can show them that we can hold on to our focus up to the end, we will still have a chance against them. With a team like Ateneo, you can’t sleep," he continued. "You can’t lose your focus for a bit. So you need to do it for 24 seconds, defend them, defend your 3-point shooters and just also find a way to score against them."
The Maroons’ magical run extended until midway through the 4th quarter, where they were just within 2, 71-73, after a key 3-pointer by veteran guard Diego Dario. However, the Eagles’ championship mettle shone through as they slowly flew away from UP’s grasp down the stretch.
“It’s a lesson that we have to learn. It’s a lesson that we need to understand because also, in the series with Adamson, it shouldn’t be that different. What that gave us was a thought that hey, if we have done this, then we could have given them a tougher game in the end, probably could have won.”
Indeed, UP’s finals hopes were in the gutter after Adamson led by 6, 84-78, midway into the overtime period of their do-or-die match, but the Maroons’ stars shone through to snatch away the 89-87 win and the coveted finals berth.
"That’s something that we can bring in into the next few days when I’m going to show them when Ateneo had left us for quite a number of points already," he continued.
The UP alumnus still has great faith that his team can pull off the impossible twice in a row.
“I told them we fought it out, we got twice-to-beat disadvantage against Adamson and we’re gonna do it again against Ateneo,” he said. “I’m still very positive about our chances. We need to do some preparation which we did not have in the last few days, but I’m quite sure we’ll be better next game.” – Rappler.com