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Sports

Destiny’s boost from UP alums

Joaquin Henson - The Philippine Star
Destinyâs boost from UP alums
The University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons led by Carl Tamayo celebrate their first UAAP men’s basketball crown since 1986 Friday at the MOA Arena.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — If destiny took UP to the UAAP men’s basketball throne this season, it got a lot of help from the Fighting Maroons’ tireless backers. “This was a four-year project that started before season 81,” said Patrick Gregorio, former PBA chairman who graduated from Diliman in 1988. “Danny Concepcion promised a UAAP championship when he became UP president in 2017 and his term is ending early next year. It had to be UP’s time.”

Gregorio said Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla never failed to drive from Silang to Diliman the day after every game during the campaign to show his commitment. “Jonvic and I were schoolmates,” said Gregorio. “With coach Bo (Perasol), we took over recruitment in the Nowhere To Go But UP Foundation headed by chairman Atty. Ags Uvero and founded by Renan Dalisay. It used to be that a frat would take care of our basketball team so in our previous championship in 1986, Sigma Rho played the role. But after we had that bonfire when we ended a 27-game losing streak in 2014, the Foundation was set up and took over.”

Recruiting players wasn’t easy. Los Angeles-based Chris Gopez and Rodel Lizan of Fil-Am Nation put Remulla, Gregorio and Perasol in contact with Zavier Lucero last year. At the height of COVID, the UP alums risked a trip to LA to meet Lucero who came in from San Francisco. In the last 12 months, Gregorio took four US trips to sign up Lucero, Henry Galinato for season 85 and Chico Briones for season 86.

“Our victory wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Atty. Concepcion, chancellor Fidel Nemenzo and dean of Human Kinetics Kiko Diaz,” said Gregorio. “Special mention to our heart and soul, Robina Gokongwei-Pe for her fighting spirit. During our dark years when we hardly won a game, she never gave up on our team.”

On the court, the Maroons were driven. Coach Goldwin Monteverde provided the Midas touch and point guard Joel Cagulangan emerged as destiny’s child. On a Friday the 13th, No. 13 scored 13 points and UP hit 13 in the fourth quarter and 13 in OT to beat Ateneo, 72-69, for its first crown in 36 years. It had to be destiny for CJ Cansino, coming off a four-game sit-out, to hit a triple to force OT fresh from the bench in another Monteverde miracle act of fate. It had to be destiny for UP to win because there was nowhere to go but UP.

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