UP will be ready for one big fight even without Zavier Lucero in Game 3 | Inquirer Sports

UP will be ready for one big fight even without Zavier Lucero in Game 3

By: - Reporter / @MusongINQ
/ 05:25 AM December 16, 2022

Zavier Lucero goes down late in UP's UAAP Finals Game 2 loss. –UAAP PHOTO

Zavier Lucero goes down late in UP’s UAAP Finals Game 2 loss. –UAAP PHOTO

Held to its lowest output under the brilliant Goldwyn Monteverde, and facing the prospect of playing the deciding game for the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball crown without the energetic Zavier Lucero, University of the Philippines (UP) is not about to come with a defeatist attitude against Ateneo on Monday.

“We are not thinking about his injury anymore,” Bo Perasol, the former coach and now head of UP’s basketball operations, told the Inquirer over the phone as the entire team awaited the results of Lucero’s MRI on his left knee. “The team is already expecting the worst.”


Lucero, the sparkplug of a 72-66 Game 1 win, injured his left knee in a no-contact play while driving to the basket early in the fourth quarter of a 66-56 loss on Wednesday. And seeing the 6-foot-7 forward try—and fail—to walk on his own hasn’t given Perasol much hope.


“There’s no pressure from the [UP] community [for him to play],” Perasol said. “We all saw how painful it was for him to walk.

“We are preparing as if he won’t play [Game 3],” Perasol said.

New favorites?

Coming into this series as the slight underdogs, the Eagles seemed to have turned that around with a brilliant defensive performance in Game 2 as the Maroons’ total now stands as their lowest in the Monteverde reign.

Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin said in an interview with CNN Philippines that Game 2 was “the best we played all-year long,” and that “if we want to win, we need the same level of defensive intensity [in Game 3].”

Ange Kouame, whose short stab was smothered by Lucero in the waning seconds that sealed the Game 1 win for UP, was an immovable force on Tuesday, shooting 19 points that went with 11 rebounds on top of three steals and three blocks for the vengeful Eagles.

Monteverde and the rest of his coaching staff still don’t know the extent of Lucero’s injury as of this writing, and should he not be able to suit up, Kouame would have a lot more room to operate inside.


“Hopefully it’s not that bad,” Monteverde said.

Perasol, who also coached in the Philippine Basketball Association and has seen his share of injured players all his life, believes that ultimately, it will be Lucero who will make the call come tip-off.

“Only he can say if he can play,” Perasol said. “If we ask a doctor, they’ll definitely say that he can’t play, considering how he went out of the court.”

In tears while on the bench, Lucero said that he heard his knee crack in that play.

Perasol, though, knows that the motivation to play for a UAAP title is still there for Lucero and the rest of the Maroons.

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And considering that Lucero is in his final season, the scrappy forward would surely like to end his collegiate career on top. Or at least standing on his own, to give the Maroons their much-cherished repeat.

For the complete collegiate sports coverage including scores, schedules and stories, visit Inquirer Varsity.

TAGS: Ateneo, Men’s basketball, UAAP Season 85, University of the Philippines (UP), Zavier Lucero

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