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UPFight: UAAP basketball champions after 36 years

By: ATTY. DENNIS R. GORECHO - Columnist/CDN Digital | May 17,2022 - 09:00 AM

The UP Fighting Maroons basketball team celebrates after beating Ateneo Blue Eagles to win the UAAP basketball title after 47 years. | Dennis Gorecho

The UP Fighting Maroons basketball team celebrates after beating Ateneo Blue Eagles to win the UAAP basketball title after 47 years. | Dennis Gorecho

The University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons Men’s Basketball Team (MBT) has earned the moniker “Cramming Maroons” due to their nail-biting, cardiac victories.

Cramming is life for the UP community—even basketball games are no exception in that habit. UP Fighting Maroons ultimately claimed their first championship in 36 years when it dethroned the Ateneo Blue Eagles at the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) basketball tournament Season 84.

The Blue Eagle’s dominance ended with the 72-69 overtime triumph by  the Fighting Maroons in Game Three of the Season 84 Finals last May 13, 2022 at the MOA Arena. Not even the Friday the 13th jinx could spoil that long-coveted bid.

UP won Game One of the finals (81-74); then the Blue Eagles took it back in Game Two (69-66). Game Three was an epic overtime win for UP (72-69), bagging the trophy.

Malick Diouf led UP with 17 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 steals. He averaged 12.3 rebounds, 11.7 points, 2.7 steals, 2.0 assists, and 1.0 blocks in the series to win Finals MVP.

The breakdown of the winning  72 points: Diouf 17, Cansino 14, Cagulangan 13, Rivero 9, Alarcon 8, Tamayo 6, Spencer 3, Lucero 0, Abadiano 0, Fortea 0.

Quarter scores : 17-11, 31-27, 46-47, 59-59 (overtime), 72-69.

A campus anecdote was that the varsity team was once known as the UP Parrots. It was replaced with a new moniker that revived the old (circa 1920s) name Maroons along with the adjective “fighting” to describe the sportsmanship attitude that the UP varsity teams must possess during the games.

This is UP’s third title in the league. They 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-year championship drought until this year.

In 1986, or 47 years  after its first trophy, UP won over UE Red Warriors under the guidance of legendary coach Joe Lipa with star players Benjie Paras, Ronnie Magsanoc and Eric Altamirano. It was the same year when Edsa People Power happened wherein the dictator was ousted.

A year later, I entered UP Diliman as a freshman in 1987 but I still felt the championship euphoria as I often see Benjie Paras around the campus.

Sadly, interest in the games dwindled. As chief photographer of Philippine Collegian from 1989 to 1991, I remember my coverages of the games with very few, if none, UP denizens inside the playing venues, mostly as required for PE classes.

More than 30 years later after the second trophy, securing tickets became a challenging feat in every game 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.

The UAAP games galvanized an extraordinary sense of solidarity for UP constituents, 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.

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

In 2014, UP lit up a bonfire at the Sunken Garden to mark one win after a 27-game losing streak in 720 days.

A UP colleague aptly said that it wasn’t self-deprecation nor sarcasm, but more than celebrating that one single win, it was to kick out and say goodbye to the long season of loss and welcome new beginnings with hope and a promise to get out of the slump.

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.

We celebrated with a bonfire the day after to give honor to our boys.

The cheer “UP Fight” resonated inside the MOA Arena 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.

The crowd was also  chanting former team captain Paul Desiderio’s mantra “Atin’to”, a battle cry that finally has gone full circle.

“UP Fight” was modified this season to “UPink Fight” as part of the systemwide campaign spearheaded by alumni and students calling for the conduct of a clean and honest election. Many wore pink themed shirts and chanted in support of  the tandem of fellow alumni Leni Robredo and Kiko Pangilinan.

It was a win as poetic and as heartfelt as the words of UP Naming Mahal lovingly sang by many generations of Iskolar ng Bayan before the bonfire.

( 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 [email protected], or call 0917-5025808 or 0908-8665786.)


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