MANILA, Philippines – The UP Fighting Maroons aim for something no team in UAAP history has ever done in any sport: Win two championships in the same discipline in the same year.
Thanks to the wonky calendars brought by the pandemic upon collegiate sports, the battle-worn Maroons have the chance to make unique history in their first men’s basketball title defense just seven months apart from a monumental 36-year championship drought-ender last May.
For head coach Goldwin Monteverde, he and his band of blue-chip stars are undoubtedly gunning for that special place in UAAP history that likely won’t be replicated for a long, long time at the very least.
“Of course, that means a lot. This is what we’re grinding for, winning the finals,” Monteverde said in Filipino. “The first goal is working every day, then working up to the Final Four, and now, we’re here in the finals.”
“We should really work hard and prepare well for the championship.”
And prepare well, they must. Standing in their way for the third time in the last four seasons are their Katipunan neighbors, the dynastic Ateneo Blue Eagles, who are entering their sixth straight UAAP finals.
Led by presumptive Season 85 MVP Malick Diouf and likely two-time Mythical Five member Carl Tamayo, the Maroons will have their work cut out for them as they continue to battle inconsistencies that have led to numerous close and cardiac finishes throughout the elimination round.
Meanwhile, the Eagles are hitting their stride at an ideal time after having won seven straight games, including one over UP in the penultimate elims slate.
History beckons once more for UP to end the year, but nothing is a sure thing with Ateneo just lurking behind and ready to pen its comeback story. Only one ideal ending can come to fruition, and it starts on Sunday, December 11, 6 pm, at the Mall of Asia Arena. – Rappler.com