Goldwin Monteverde, coach of the University of the Philippines (UP), wanted to pause to comprehend the Maroons’ huge shock against three-time defending champion Ateneo on Sunday night.
“I’d like to think about it when we get to the hotel,” Monteverde remarked after leading the Maroons to an 84-83 victory over the Eagles, snapping the defending champions’ 39-game winning streak in the UAAP men’s basketball championship in front of a sellout crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena.
And after that brief period, Monteverde understood what lay ahead for him and his tenacious Maroons.
“We need to prepare for La Salle [in the Final Four],” he said after the Maroons handed the Eagles their first loss since 2018. They could ask for the best morale boost heading into the semifinals, where they have a twice-to-beat incentive over the Green Archers despite being the No. 2 seeded team.
“[Going into] the last two games, we [knew] we had the twice-to-beat incentive,” Monteverde explained. “However, we are always searching for ways to improve.” That [victory] is significant for us as we approach the Final Four. We learned a lot from our last two games, whatever they were.” You can see the latest updates about UAAP men’s basketball in OKBET, they provide also some guides for you.
The Maroons have won four straight games, which they hope will fuel their quest for their first championship since Season 49.
“This [victory] is significant for us; hopefully, we can sustain it,” Monteverde added.
Ricci Rivero hit two free throws in the final 22 seconds to give UP the lead after Dave Ildefonso tied the game at 83-82 with 32.4 seconds remaining.
That came as UP Maroons attempted to maintain its advantage after Ateneo climbed out of gaps as deep as 18 points in the first half to lead late in the fourth session.
Earlier, despite the absence of its major players. La Salle made matters more straightforward for everyone by knocking off National University (NU) to finish the Final Four.
The Bulldogs’ flashy guard Deshon Winston and towering center Justin Baltazar kept on the bench. Most likely to keep them fresh for the following round, but the Archers were still too much, winning 76-65.
Far Eastern University (FEU) gained a free ride to join No. 1 Ateneo and second-ranked University of the Philippines after La Salle won its ninth game in 14 games.
Before the La Salle-NU game, FEU coach Olsen Racela said, “Right now, our goal is to win one more win to make the Final Four.” The Tamaraws beat the University of Santo Tomas 109-65 earlier in the day, giving them a 7-7 record.
Adamson was left out in the cold, praying for a Far Eastern loss to force a playoff for No. 4.
In the first game, the Falcons defeated the University of the East 65-53, ending the Eagles’ winless season. Adamson finished the season with a 6-8 record.
The Tamaraws made it to the Final Four without incident, but the path ahead will be difficult.
As the last team in, FEU can only make the Finals if they defeat the Eagles twice in a row. And, with the behemoth awakened, the Tamaraws will face an Ateneo squad coming off its first loss in two seasons, making it a monumental job.
Bryan Sajonia led the Tamaraws with 27 points, while RJ Abarrientos chipped in with 11.