Fighting Maroons proud to unite University of the Philippines
Olmin Leyba (The Philippine Star) - December 7, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — More than the telenovela-esque rise and transformation from cellar-dweller to contender, University of the Philippines coach Bo Perasol took pride in forging unity among Iskos and Iskas and making them believe in the power of the will to succeed against all odds with their feat in the UAAP Season 81 hoop wars.

“The crowd – that was what the team achieved. They did the unthinkable, they brought together what was once called a fractured community,” Perasol told The STAR a day after the Maroons took runner-up honors to back-to-back champs Ateneo Eagles in a rare and well-followed title series between Katipunan neighbors. 

“In a school that encourages diversity, the UP men’s basketball team gave the community a reason to join hands, not to stage a rally, but to show the nation that nothing is impossible, if only they would believe,” he added.

Perasol and his hungry “16-Strong” crew led by Paul “Atin To” Desiderio believed even when no one else did.

The Fighting Maroons gradually fought their way from the lower rungs of the standings into the Top 4, racking up crucial victories in the stretch of the elims capped by a gutsy win over fancied La Salle to claim their first Final Four berth since 1997. As third-ranked, the Maroons had to overcome the twice-to-beat advantage of No. 2 Adamson, a heavy favorite to progress, and did what some considered was unthinkable – take down the Falcons two times – en route to snapping a 32-year finals absence and a showdown with the mighty Eagles.

UP’s brave fight didn’t escape the eyes of its students and alumni, who woke up like sleeping dragons and started a groundswelling of support.

“Never give up talaga kami lagi. Ang problema namin dati sa UP, nilalamangan kami tapos nawawalan na kami ng gana at tuloy-tuloy na yun. Happy ako na nabago yun. Ngayon, laging sinasabi ng teammates ko na ‘Atin ‘to!’” said Desiderio, the face of the Maroons’ never-ending faith in themselves.

After the final buzzer sounded and signalled the end of their improbable run, Perasol gathered his boys in a huddle and gave them a passionate pep talk, urging them to hold their heads up and pay tribute to the UP supporters.

“For all those guys who are there (UP crowd), I don’t want you to look down. I want you to be proud of what you did. They are proud of you!” he told them.

“You have to light the fire! The finals is done, the finals is done! You need to be proud that we made it to the Finals… Nobody expected us to be here! You achieved so much, you sacrificed so much! That’s why they are here! So do not look down. We will be better! Okay? You have to be proud for them! You have to make it and show it in your faces!” he added.

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