UP has all the ingredients to build itself a dynasty.
Close-to-Generational Talent who got better + New Shiny Parts + Same Core That Got Better = Dynasty
It only made sense that during the offseason, the UP Fighting Maroons were largely considered the odds-on favorites to repeat this UAAP Season 85. Coming from the era of the Ateneo Blue Eagles, the next logical step was to name this incoming era the Age of Diliman. This was UP’s time to dominate, where they’d get to write books, not about second-place finishes, but rather, about a dynasty.
Before grabbing that pen, the La Salle Green Archers told us they had other plans.
UP and La Salle started out their game shaky, which was understandable since it was their first game of the season. But even after getting to take out the cobwebs, the Fighting Maroons still did not look right. On the other side things, La Salle was starting to get its confidence up, especially with Schonny Winston catching fire from mid-range.
Instead of an immediate crowning moment, what the UP Fighting Maroons got during the first half versus La Salle was a slap back to reality. They were no longer the hunters, they were now the hunted. That was especially evident during the second quarter, where the Green Archers overwhelmed UP with its signature Pumaren press to erect an eight-point lead to end the first half. All momentum was on the Green side.
Expectations can be a chore to handle. They have a tendency of breaking the spirits of basketball teams. UP did not look like the dynasty that they could be and that thought could have thrown them off for the rest of the game.
Could have. If they were a team with a weak body, weak mind, and a weak ego, that’s probably what would have happened. But the Fighting Maroons didn’t have any of those things. Coming out of the second half, we were witness to a team with a strong body, strong mind, and no ego. They reminded us why they’ve been the heart and soul of college basketball during the pandemic era.
College Basketball is exciting and passionate. Terrence Fortea stepped up and took over lead play-making duties over an injured JD Cagulangan. Aside from his skill, Carl Tamayo’s passion and confidence helped will UP during their comeback.
College basketball is also flawed, just like UP. Even as they were cutting down La Salle’s lead, their lack of ball-handlers with size kept on biting them in the butt versus the Pumaren press. They also kept on making very basic mistakes that contributed to the lead of the Green Archers.
But the beauty of this UP team, which is something that we learned as early as last season, is how they embrace their flaws. They made mistakes, but they never let them affect how they tried to execute their game plan.
In today’s competitive and deep college basketball landscape, it’s unreasonable to expect teams to play perfect basketball. The best teams are the ones that fight through their mistakes. UP is the team that’s the undisputed best at doing that in the country. It’s why they won Season 84. It’s also why they won their first game this Season 85.
Quite literally, UP picked up right where they left off.
Despite a raucous crowd and an uber-talented opponent breathing down their backs, the UP Fighting Maroons survived their first game of the season, which was capped off by the heroics of their close-to-generational talent, Carl Tamayo. It wasn’t a game where UP could confidently say “I’m better than you, and you know it”. Instead, it was a game that served as a reminder of why they’re even defending champions in the first place.
They’re talented. They’re passionate. They’re flawed. But they’re also grounded, and because of that humility, they’re able to fight past adversity and maximize their strengths so they can rise above the rest.
Hindi sila bumitaw. Hindi pa rin sila bibitaw.
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