UP’s ‘fightingest’ Maroons

Lito A. Tacujan - The Philippine Star
UP�s �fightingest� Maroons
Zavier Lucero (R) and Carl Tamayo celebrate after making a shot for the UP Fighting Maroons against the NU Bulldogs last Tuesday, April 12, at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

MANILA, Philippines — ‘Twas an epic showdown begging for an epic ending and UP responded as the Maroons stepped into history with a step-back trey in overtime in the UAAP Season 84.

The narratives flow freely after the three-point shot of JD Cagulangan at the buzzer as the Maroons beat the reigning champions Ateneo Blue Eagles, 72-69, before roaring 13,000 fans stewing in summer heat at the MOA.

The summer of ‘22 will be remembered for its splash of colors, particularly red and pink that highlighted the political climate for the national poll and the Maroons of UP who gave the Eagles the blues.

“Dynasty vs Destiny” said one of the narratives, citing the Blue Eagles’ three straight championships against UP’s 36-year title drought and “Goldwin over Baldwin,” referring to coaches Goldwin Monteverde of UP and Tab Baldwin of Ateneo.

And then there was the feud being called “Battle of Katipunan,” alluding to the main road connecting the two schools, barely a mile that separates the victor and the vanquished.

Destiny versus Dynasty. It was a tremendous season for the Maroons who snapped Ateneo’s 39-game winning run since 2018 with an 84-83 victory that forced the best-of-three title playoff.

“We never lose hope,” Monteverde said, recalling the shifting fortunes in the title match.

There was CJ Cansino, back from injury, who rescued the Maroons in the brink of defeat with a three-point shot using the glass that sent the game into overtime, 59-all.

There were other Maroons who played their roles to the hilt – Finals MVP Malick Diouf, Zavier Lucero, James Spencer, Carl Tamayo, senior players Ricci Rivero and Noah Webb.

“It was an epic game. I’m very proud of our team, but I acknowledge that UP’s fighting spirit was… it just felt like destiny,” said Baldwin.

The feat would break the 36-year lull for the Maroons who last won in 1986 with Benjie Paras, Eric Altamirano and Ronnie Magsanoc among others.

And Cagulangan, whose heroics in the extra period, hitting eight points capped by that confident step-back trey in endgame, will surely be enshrined in the league history as the “fightingest” among the Maroons.

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