Reigning champ Blue Eagles and resurgent Fighting Maroons fire the opening salvo in the UAAP Season 81 men’s basketball finals series today at MOA Arena in front of a sea of blue and maroon anticipating a blood-and-guts competition for glory.
Title series: Best vs best of the rest
Olmin Leyba (The Philippine Star) - December 1, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — A compelling title series with the best raring to keep its dream reign against the best of the rest chasing a dream for the ages.

Reigning champ Blue Eagles and resurgent Fighting Maroons fire the opening salvo in the UAAP Season 81 men’s basketball finals series today at MOA Arena in front of a sea of blue and maroon anticipating a blood-and-guts competition for glory. 

“It will be tough, they’re worthy finals opponents,” said Ateneo assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga of the Maroons, who finally ended 32 long years of missing the Last-Dance with a for-the-books Final Four reversal over twice-to-beat Adamson.

Although pundits give the high-flying Eagles the edge, the gutsy Maroons couldn’t be counted out in this high-stakes edition of the so-called “Battle of Katipunan” that’s expected to see high-powered alumni and supporters from both recognition-hungry UP and throne-clinging Ateneo among the throngs in attendance.

“They (UP) have a center who’s good offensively and defensively in Bright Akhuetie and they have a lot of talented players led by Juan Gomez de Liano, Paul Desiderio and Jun Manzo and they have a very good coach and very good coaching staff,” said Arespacochaga.

 “UP is offensive-oriented pero it’s a mistake kung iyon lang ang titignan mo. UP is not just good offensively, defensive team din sila; hindi naman sila aabot all the way here (if they can’t defend) so we can’t think ganito lang sila,” he pointed out.

In a rare position to strike after years of fighting their way out of last place and celebrating one win with a bonfire festivity, the Maroons vowed to make the most of this golden opportunity - heavy underdogs they may be.

“It gives us confidence in ourselves that despite what we have, the mismatches and all that, if we can be resilient, we can still pursue our dream of winning,” said UP mentor Bo Perasol. 

“Lahat ng pinagdaanan namin, especially in the Final Four, should make us better going into the Ateneo game. And that’s not to say they don’t have a huge advantage against us but that’s something we could carry on going to the championship series,” he added.

Ateneo swept UP in the elims, 87-79 and 83-66, but the Eagles know fully well you throw past records away come the finals.

“Kahit ano’ng sabihin natin, pagdating sa finals, back to-zero yun, it’s a best-of-three, wala nang kinalaman record mo, how many wins you had; what matters is the present and so we have to handle things and make our guys think about the present,” said Arespacochaga.

“Make no mistake about it, we’re going to fight for it,” said Perasol.

Players from both camps declared readiness to do battle.

“Alam namin we have to be more focused, mas locked-in kami on the details like changes in their offensive actions and defensive actions,” said AdMU star Thirdy Ravena, who’s tipped to play a key role in their title-retention bid alongside big man Angelo Kouame, Matt and Mike Nieto,Raffy Verano and defensive specialist Gian Mamuyac.”We also have to have a better mindset (than we had in the previous games).” 

“Kung ano man ang chance namin sa finals, we will grab it,” said Desiderio.

Akhuetie, the soon-to-be-named MVP, preferred to shield his outlook away from the bright lights.

“For me it’s just basketball, you just have to go out there and do you best, that’s all we have to do,” said the transferee from Perpetual.

BASKETBALL BLUE EAGLES FIGHTING MAROONS UAAP FINALS 2018 UAAP SEASON 81
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