There is no perfect formula for anything, University of the Philippines (UP) coach Goldwyn Monteverde said on Sunday, minutes after the Maroons held off the Ateneo Blue Eagles in overtime, 81-74, to stand at the doorstep of their first UAAP title since 1986.
Surely, though, they must be doing something right.
UP, after all, has done what no other school has done to Ateneo since 2017: Beat the Blue Eagles more than once in a season.
“I guess [if there’s a] formula … it’s being consistent as a team,” Monteverde said in Filipino. “Defensively, we should trust each other and the communication should always be there.”
Whatever it is, UP hopes to bring extra doses of it on Wednesday when it tries to close out the defending champions in Game 2 of the Season 84 men’s basketball finals at Mall of Asia Arena.
Game time is set at 6 p.m., when the Maroons try to make it three straight against the Eagles. UP beat Ateneo, 84-83, in the final day of eliminations, halting an incredible four-year winning streak by its Katipunan neighbors at 39 games. After nearly crashing against La Salle in the Final Four, UP took Game 1 of the championship series to stand at the threshold of greatness, where it is 40 minutes from ending Ateneo’s three-season reign.
Flashy guard Ricci Rivero, who helped fuel UP’s 1-0 Finals start, said he is hoping his teammates take the court in Game 2 with the mentality that the series is still deadlocked.
A hindrance, sometimes
“[I]t doesn’t really give us … legit confidence that ‘okay, we’re up by one [game], we’re gonna win this,’” Rivero said. “For me, it’s sometimes even a hindrance … so I’d rather we’d think [of the series] like we’re back to 0-0 again.”
Rivero, Zavier Lucero and James Spencer delivered clutch hits for UP, which trailed by eight under the five-minute mark of the fourth quarter. On one hand, the Maroons did showcase the same resilience that rallied them from 14 down halfway through the final period in a sink-or-swim semifinal showdown against La Salle.
On the other hand, they did catch a Blue Eagles squad at its worst this season.
Ateneo missed 14 of 25 free throw attempts and had 26 turnovers against 28 made field goals. And the Eagles were still able to make a game out of it, even leading, 74-71, in overtime before UP’s endgame run.
“We got to look at our lapses,” Monteverde said. “We still need to look at the things that we need to do.” INQ
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