Securing tickets  for the University Athletic Association  of  the Philippines ( UAAP)  games became a challenging feat  due to the increasing number of enthusiastic fans eager to shout “UP Fight” as the maroons battle it out to earn the spot for the final games.

Each game became mini-reunions with endless photo-ops and reminiscing of college days memories over coffee, lunch, merienda or dinner.

The galvanized an extraordinary sense of solidarity for constituents of the University of the Philippines (UP), often described as the microcosm of a highly diverse nation.

An academic community all too easily fractured by politics and personal interest, the cheer “UP Fight!” reverberated during the past UAAP games as the UP Fighting Maroons fought UP style – “may giting at tapang.”  Every point is worth screaming.

UP is one of the four  founding members of the UAAP in 1938.  There are  presently eight member universities

I still remember watching basketball games of the  UAAP) in the late 1980s and early 1990s with almost empty seats.

In 1986,  UP Men’s Basketball Team  (MBT)  won over UE Red Warriors under the guidance of legendary coach Joe Lipa with star players Benjie Paras, Ronnie Magsanoc and Eric Altamirano.  

From 2007 to 2014, except in 2008, UP was always at the bottom pit as it ranked eighth (out of eight schools) in the basketball category.

UP Fighting Maroons  won their first title all the way back in 1939  (Season 2) then followed it up 47 years  later in 1986 (Season 49).  Then there was the 36 years championship drought until its third title  this year (Season 84) .

In 2018 Season 81,  UP’s bid for the championship trophy  unfortunately ended when it lost to  Ateneo.

In 2019 Season 82, UP was defeated by UST  during the Final Four round.

In 2020/21 season 83, there was no tournament due to the pandemic

In 2022,  the Maroons had their best record  as champions in Season 84.

UP Fighting Maroons   claimed their first championship in 36 years  when it dethroned  the Ateneo Blue Eagles  during  Game Three of the  UAAP Season 84 Finals last May 13, 2022 at the MOA Arena.

However, its attempt to be  the back to back champion for Season 85 ended when it succumbed to Ateneo during Game 3 of the  finals with  a roaring 21,814 crowd last December 19, 2022. 

UP  won  Game One  of the finals (72-66) but  the Blue Eagles took it back  in Game  Two (65-55) . Ateneo won in Game Three (75-68)  bagging the trophy.

Game Three scores of UP (68):   Spencer 14, Alarcon 12, Galinato 12, Tamayo 11, Cagulangan 9, Diouf 7, Gonzales 2, Lucero 1, Abadiano 0, Fortea 0, Lina 0.

Scores for the Quarters (Ateneo/UP): 30-14, 47-32, 60-52, 75-68.

With a  difference of seven points, UP literally lost the game in the first quarter as scores show that UP won in 3 of the 4 quarters in  terms of incremental points: UP had 14, 18, 20 and 16 while Ateneo had 30, 17, 13, and 15.

Perhaps a major factor is the absence of  6-foot-7 forward  Zavier Lucero in Game Three  who was not able to play  due to the  tear of  his left ACL he suffered during Game Two.

 Another  major player,  CJ Cansino, missed the entirety of UAAP Season 85 when he underwent  surgery  last July  due to a  right knee injury during the  last elimination game of Season 84 but came back and made an impact in Game Three basketball finals.

During Season 84, two MBT players landed in the mythical five, namely  Lucero with 62.0 statistical points (SPs)  and Carl Tamayo    at 57.643 SPs.

For Season 85, two players again were recognized as part of the Mythical Five :  Tamayo  with 63.429 SPs built on averages of 13.79 points and 7.71 rebounds along with anchor Malick Diouf.

 Diouf was  also  recognized as the   Most Valuable Player (MVP) making him the fourth top individual awardee for UP in league history along with Bright Akhuetie (2018) , Eric Altamirano (1986), and Fort Acuna (1968).

Diouf, last season’s  MVP, amassed 73.9 statistical points (SPs) built on averages of 10.79 points, 10.86 rebounds, 2.86 assists, 1.57 blocks, and 1.5 steals.

Tamayo also received a special award as Lazada Swag player of the season.

The UP  Fighting Maroons has  earned the moniker “Cramming Maroons”  due to their nail-biting, cardiac games.

Cramming is life for the UP community—even basketball games are no exception in that habit.

With 67-70 score during the last 20.1 seconds,  many were still hoping that a three-point shot will lead to an overtime just like what happened last season.

Lucero entered the court  0.7 seconds remaining in the game to shoot a technical free throw making the final score to be 68-75. “That’s something I’m gonna remember for the rest of my life, too,” Lucero said in an interview.

Despite the loss, we celebrated with a bonfire  at the Amphitheatre  to give honor to our boys.

The cheer “UP Fight” resonated   in every game as men and women who solidly believed in the team, including   the  support group Nowhere To Go But UP, stood by their side in their journey.

With the “Walang Bibitaw” battle cry, it was a season  as poetic and as heartfelt as the words of UP Naming Mahal  lovingly and proudly sang by many generations of Iskolar ng Bayan.

(Peyups is the moniker of University of the Philippines. Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, e-mail info@sapalovelez.com, or call 0917-5025808 or 0908-8665786.)

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