They open fire

November 30, 2018

PLAYING on its first UAAP men's basketball Finals game since winning the first post-war championship on Oct. 25, 1986, University of the Philippines hopes to savor every moment in the league's biggest stage.

For back-to-back title-seeking Ateneo, this is a great opportunity to prove against their Katipunan rivals who is the boss.

The Fighting Maroons are facing a tough test to continue their Cinderella playoff run in the Blue Eagles, as the best-of-three championship opens at 3:30 p.m. today before an expected jampacked crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena.

In the women's Finals, defending champion National University, putting its remarkable 78-game winning streak on the line, and Far Eastern University clash in the series opener at 11 a.m.

UP, which defeated Adamson twice in a classic Final Four showdown to claim its first Finals appearance in 32 years, will enter the series against Ateneo as underdogs.

The Eagles, who dominated the Maroons in their two elimination round meetings this season, will carry a eight-game winning run in the Finals.

Having survived a tough Falcons side, coach Bo Perasol believes that they can do it again and make the improbable possible.

"But there is something that we do that will keep us going. We will look forward in the championship game against Ateneo and we knew that we will take something from that, the courage, the resilience that our feeling that we need to keep moving to, keep fighting, no matter what the odds are," said Perasol.

Ranged against a determined opponent going for history, the Eagles are dead serious to claim their 10th crown overall.   The Ateneo team management has imposed a social media lockdown right after its 80-61 Final Four win against FEU for the players to be locked in and not be distracted in the run-up to the Finals.

Winding down his final collegiate season for two or three games, Paul Desiderio is leaving everything on the floor to help UP do well in the championship round.

"I really sacrificed everything," said Desiderio, who was clutch in the Maroons' 89-87 overtime win over the Falcons in last Wednesday's semis decider. "It's okay because the community has been waiting for this for a long time. All my sacrifice is for UP."

This marks the first time that the Eagles and the Maroons will meet in the Finals. What's interesting is after UP won its 1986 title, Ateneo bagged its first-ever title the following season.

The Maroons' main concern in the Finals is how to cope with the Eagles' deep rotation, as coach Tab Baldwin can count on even up to his third unit.

A match-up worth-watching in this series is the showdown of the league's finest international players in UP's Bright Akhuetie - the soon-to-be-crowned MVP from Nigeria - and Ateneo's Ange Kouame - the Ivorian rookie who made a huge impact this season.