Comeback: They’re Not Called UP Fighting Maroons for Nothing
If you’re not following the pre-season games of the UP Fighting Maroons, you might be tempted to think that our ballers will continue sliding down the team standings. I know this for sure, since I really don’t get to watch or hear news about some of the pre-UAAP season games such as the FilOil and the Nike Summer League.
Thanks to maroonsbasketball.com, my blinded eyes were opened to the real deal about our Fighting Maroons.
During the 2009 FilOil Flying V Invitational Tourney, we won two of 7 games, all coming from the latter half of the tournament. One of the two win games was with NU, which lost by 25 points 72-47. The loses were somehow explicable, since the teams that beat us were the top tough guys, La Salle, San Beda, JRU, CSB, and FEU. And their losses were not big losses. The biggest was from NCAA powerhouse JRU, which won over us by 15. And if you’ll look at the loss we incurred from La Salle, it was merely by a point. The tourney was indeed preparatory for the Maroons for an even better output with the league it joined next, the Nike Summer League.
UP was 3-2 in the 2009 Nike Summer League. Let me deal with the facts of the two losses.
The losses were incurred from, again, JRU and Letran. Incidentally, UP lost to JRU, 73-58 with the same final score from their previous encounter at the FilOil Tourney, which was 73-58 also. The loss to Letran only had a two-point margin. Impressive enough for the Maroons, who went up with a former NCAA champion.
Now it gets both encouraging and interesting…
UP aced all its last three games, and all with convincing leads. Its first win came from UST, which back then lacked the services of Dylan Ababou, 71-62. Maybe that’s why Ababou was bloodthirsty for a win when they encountered with UPat their last game for UAAP’s round one. The veterans spelled the victory for this game, which were Woody Co and Martin Reyes.
The second one was the biggest blowout win by UP. The Maroons won over the NU Bulldogs with a crushing score of 78-39 (no wonder the Bulldogs wanted to get back at the Maroons when they opened the UAAP season with them). And this win wasn’t even courtesy of the “usual suspects” Co, who only had 4, and Martin Reyes, who only had 9. It was unheralded guard Mike Gamboa who lead the team with 15, and rookie Carlo Gomez with 11.
Their last win also came from their last game with Don Bosco, 68-61.
And in case you did not notice, most of these won games were courtesy of the rookies, Padilla, Juruena and Silungan. Mikee Reyes and Carlo Gomez did not even feature yet in these pre-season games. With what has been ongoing for these newbies so far, we have a brighter path up ahead us for this next round, and even for the next seasons.
Just a final note. If you’ve been following the Maroons since five to six years ago, you’ll find a precedent for what we are hoping the current roster of Maroons will do this next round. The line-up of the Maroons at that time included Marvin Cruz, Nestor David, Totie Almeda, Josant Cervantes, Abby Santos, Vic Epres, Bruce Quebral, and Jireh Ibanez. It was then led by coach Lito Vergara, who had just been elevated then from coaching the Junior Maroons to the senior team. They also started the first round of the season with only one win, a victory over NU. It would have seemed the season was over.
And then the unexpected comeback happened.
When UP won its first game of that season’s round two, I think with UST, everybody was relieved and contented already that at least the season won’t be ending with a single win. And then another win came for UP, over UE, which was a reason for jubilation. Coming in for a game three duel against Adamson, UP was riding the momentum and cruised over the Falcons with 66-55 victory.
But if the UE win was a prelims, the game with FEU was the midterms. They were the season 66 champions, and they still had the swagger of one. But UP trounced them as well with a come-from-behind 61-56 win. If the first round win over NU were included, UP was now winning 5 straight games.
The Season 67 Battle of Katipunan was really a vicious one. Altercations almost marred the game because of the really physical game that was going on. But UP kept their cool, maintained their composure, and the lead, which eventually ended with a 74-69 win. This was win number 6. This meant UP was just one game away from entering its first final four appearance since Paolo Mendoza’s time.
But the streak had to eventually end, and UP’s run was put to a screeching halt by DLSU in a game far more physical than its previous game with Ateneo. The win by DLSU gave UE, who was waiting for the results of that game, an automatic pass to the semis. UP bowed out of that game with a 70-52 defeat.
The last win, which was a no-bearing game against NU, gave UP a final stat of 7 wins and 7 losses. That was the last time UP was closest to barging into the final four. The following season, UP was one game short of keeping the stat at 6-8. The next season was more disheartening at 4-8 (only 12 games were played because of La Sall’es suspension). But nothing could be more devastating than season 70, when the Maroons did not even win a single game in 14 outings. Last season, they won 3 and lost 9 games.
They’re finally coming back.
Even in their performances in the last three games of this season’s first round, they’re slowly showing that the other teams shouldn’t count them out yet. In the last three games, UP performed in such a way that no one could ever tell how the game would eventually end. These three games also happened just after they won their first and only win so far, over the defending champion Ateneo. Sniping the top leader of this season’s pack is not an easy feat.
I’ve almost re-narrated the UP Fighting Maroons’ basketball history, just to prove this point–we’re not called the “fighting maroons” for nothing. The other teams might have won over us, but they themselves will agree their wins over us were not easy wins. Right now, I am fully convinced that, though we might be the cellar dwellers as of now, we are the most dangerous team to go up against.
Because nothing is deadlier than a team that plays as if we have nothing to lose.