MANILA, Philippines – Even in defeat, the UP Fighting Maroons just kept on surprising people.
Despite playing in their first UAAP Finals game in 32 years, UP displayed fine form and kept it close against the defending champion Ateneo Blue Eagles.
However, the Eagles proved why they hold that title in the first place and pulled away late for an 88-79 win, moving them to the cusp of back-to-back titles for the first time in over 5 years.
In the losing effort, Maroons point guard Jun Manzo tied his career-high with 19 points to lead his team in scoring.
Although they came up short, the Cebuano hotshot was all praises for his team in the face of a heavy favorite like Ateneo.
“Masasabi ko lang yung team namin gutom kaya hindi namin papakawalan yung chance na binigay sa amin ng Lord,” he said after the game. “Next game, babawi talaga kami.”
(I can only say that our team was hungry, that’s why we won’t let go of the chance God gave us. Next game, we’ll really get back at them.)
“Yung lead nila parang hindi masyadong lumamang [nang todo],” he continued. “Yun yung dadalhin namin tsaka enjoy lang [kami] sa game.”
(Their lead didn’t blow up that much. That’s the thought what we’ll bring and we’ll just enjoy the game.)
Manzo, though, downplayed his career-best output, saying that there are bigger things to think about.
“Hindi ko naman hinahanap yung shots ko tapos parang pumapasok lang talaga siya,” he said. “Focus ko lang kasi is defense, ma-stop yung mga three points ni [Anton] Asistio kaso iba yung gumawa eh kaya sayang, bawi na lang kami next game.”
(I wasn’t really looking for my shots. They were just going in. My focus was on defense and stop the three points of Anton Asistio but someone else produced. We’ll just get back at them next game.)
Instead of Asistio, it was chief floor general Matt Nieto who erupted for 27 points. Highlight machine Thirdy Ravena also flirted with a triple-double after a 21-point, 10-rebound and 9-assist outing.
Manzo just had to tip his hat to the champs in the aftermath, vowing that UP would come back stronger in Game 2.
“Team talaga sila hanggang sa dulo. From the start to finish, team talaga sila. Hindi mawawala yun tsaka yung experience nila sa finals, hindi matatanggal sa kanila yun.”
(They were a team until the end. From start to finish, they were a team. You can’t take that and their finals experience away from them.) – Rappler.com