Beaten, UP still the nobler UAAP 81 story
Ateneo was many teams on Wednesday: relentless, sensational, strong and merciless.
UP was only one outfit: dignified and unyielding.
The Ateneo Blue Eagles did make retaining the UAAP basketball crown appear fluid, easy.
The Blue Eagles ruled the floor early before surpassing themselves with smashing all-around dominance in the final quarter.
The game was as wide as the final 98-81 score indicated.
Ateneo was overpowering, mainly in the closing stretch, thus making one seasoned spectator surmise that, if it were in boxing, UP could’ve been counted out on its feet.
That, of course, was not possible.
The UAAP Finals underdog never sputtered or displayed moments of inferiority or helplessness.
The Fighting Maroons, who made history by bringing UP back to the UAAP Finals after 32 long years, stayed in the thick of battle in the most trying moments.
UP gallantly refused to be crushed or get scattered.
Ateneo had a riotous celebration, complete with chanting, jumping, singing, shower of glittering confetti.
The UP Maroons had their own quiet merriment, tinged with sobs, but definitely more moving, and meaningful.
It’s not easy to find a losing squad ascending the victory stage side-by-side with the winner.
Coach Bo Perasol of the UP Maroons was giving an impassioned speech, exhorting his men to keep the triumphant spirit burning for the bigger shot at ultimate supremacy ahead.
Nothing to be sorry for, Perasol exclaimed, stressing what they had achieved should serve as springboard to greater achievements.
Of course, UP with the exit of at least five veterans, could find assembling another solid unyielding team a very tough task.
There’s the talk of the celebrated Kobe Paras and another key cager joining the Maroons.
But Ateneo, with only one listed graduate this season, should prove harder to hurdle next time out.
Ateneo, with very rich support, could not ask for more. But for UP, there will be the newfound unity, the growing concern and care of the entire university, together with that of the alumni community, for its varsity team.
The story of the UP Maroons’ noble ascent as an elite outfit should also include the sudden outpouring of care and concern from countless ordinary fans out in the streets.
The morning after the end of the UAAP 81 Finals, many instant supporters were professing allegiance to the fearless UP Maroons.
“UP na kami all the time, all the way,” said a veteran amateur basketball referee, who got a nodding approval from a bystander.
You don’t have to walk long to realize the fresh concern and amazement of ordinary fans for the UP Maroons.
These fans have found a new darling team, the Barangay Ginebra of the varsity circuit.
A fearless underdog squad, UP proudly flashed a noble never-say-die spirit in the 81st UAAP season.
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