Maroons launch title defense versus Archers

John Bryan Ulanday - The Philippine Star
Maroons launch title defense versus Archers
Dickie Bachmann.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — For the first time in decades, University of the Philippines heads to the battlefield with a large target on its back as it launches its title defense in UAAP Season 85 today at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Carrying a gargantuan task as the new UAAP ruler, the Fighting Maroons take on dangerous La Salle at 4 p.m. seeking a running start in the tourney where everyone is itching  to immediately bump the champs off the throne.

At 2 p.m., host Adamson battles Santo Tomas after the pre-recorded opening ceremony at 12:30 p.m. as the UAAP returns to a full calendar with 60 events across 21 sports for the first time amid the pandemic.

UAAP’s full-swing comeback will feature a coaches’ challenge in basketball, under commissioner Dickie Bachmann.

But the spotlight – and the pressure that comes with it – is all on UP as it enters the season as one of the heavy title favorites after a historic triumph last May at the expense of three-time champion Ateneo.

For coach Goldwin Monteverde, nothing’s changed as far as their approach and mindset are concerned – as if they have not won anything.

“Hindi kasi ako naniniwala sa defending champion. Champion kami sa Season 84 at tapos na ‘yun. Ngayong season, wala namang champion kaya importante ‘yung gutom namin, nandiyan pa rin,” said Monteverde.

That explained why the Fighting Maroons have prepared hard for their tough outing against the Green Archers, who came close to ending their title drought after nearly erasing a twice-to-win handicap in the Final Four last season.

“Mabigat na kalaban ang La Salle. We prepared the best that we could to be ready for whatever challenge. It will be an exciting game,” said Monteverde, whose wards held a camp in South Korea to gear up for the season.

La Salle likewise had an overseas stint in Japan on top of ruling the PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup as the Archers brace for the tall order of testing the reigning champion’s mettle first.

“As the defending champions, they have a different confidence level now, compared to the bubble tournament, but I can guarantee that we will play hard and compete to have a chance of winning,” said coach Derrick Pumaren.


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