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UAAP Season 82 is right around the corner and we’re counting down the days until the opening! For this series, The Ampersand looks back on favorite UAAP moments. 

UP vs UST,  First Round (2017)

Patriz, College of Arts and Letters

I remember days before Season 80, SLAM Philippines featured basketball players from different UAAP teams. Some were still in college while some were in the pros already. In one of their articles, James Yap made a fearless forecast about Paul Desiderio: “‘Yung taga-UP? Gagaling ‘yun, pare. Hintayin mo. Next shoot niyo dun kay Paul, magulo [na din] parang ganto.” 

True enough, UP’s first game of Season 80 was the start of Desiderio’s legend in collegiate basketball.

I watched that game in MOA Arena with my brothers (two La Sallians and an Atenean who also root for UP) and my two cousins (one from Zobel who also roots for UP and one from UST na walang kakampi lol). I remember my heart pounding and I was so worried that Noah Webb would be called for a moving screen. I remember the shot. I remember the ensuing chaos from the UP crowd in attendance. I remember seeing my brothers stand up and shout to celebrate. My cousins also stood up, one out of pure euphoria and the other out of despair. It was such an incredible moment. It was even better when I checked Twitter and watched the replay at home. May sinabi pala si Desiderio nung Timeout. Pang -GOAT na quote: “Atin ‘to. Papasok ‘to.” Grabe. Ibang klase.  

Desiderio was full of conviction in a moment full of doubt. It’s very UP. You just have to believe and you just have to push through. You have to see it until the end. You have to know what’s yours. You have to claim it.

It was also a moment when UP’s trashtalk game was on point. Mayabang kaming mga taga-UP. Alam namin yun. Nung talunan nga, mayabang na. Pano pa pag nanalo na? Exhibit A: 

But let me indulge a bit here. I know that Desiderio is a legend in UP. But my favorite UP player remains to be Jett Manuel. And one of my favorite UP moments is probably one of his most heartbreaking one. There’s this picture of him; he was almost kneeling near the corner of the court. I don’t know if he was crying, but I am sure that he refused to leave because we lost. We were leading FEU the whole game but faltered in the end (in typical UP fashion). If we had won that game, we would have a great chance to enter the Final Four. It’s a nice reminder of how far we’ve come, how all the failures and heartbreak seem so distant and irrelevant now.

Before Manuel, my favorite UP players always changed. For a time, it was Diego Dario because he kept playing even when we were down by 30 or Henri Asilum because he played the game of his life against UE years ago or Raul Soyud because he was relentless despite everything. But Manuel was the first one who made me really believe that we could win. He started this run. Before Atin ‘to. Before the Final Four. Before the Finals. Jett Manuel made me believe. He made us believe.

Expectations in Season 82: Final Four. If we get lucky, another Finals appearance.

UP vs Adamson, Semifinals Game 1 (2018)

Regina, College of Arts and Letters 

It’s hard to pick just one, especially when we’ve just come out of a great season. I mean, there are so many memorable moments from Season 81. There’s the do-or-die thriller Game 2 between UP and Adamson that ended with an Atin ‘to moment by Paul Desiderio and earned UP its first finals appearance after 32 long years (I still get chills every time I remember the last 6 seconds of this game and the ensuing chaos and euphoria). There’s also—seriously, who could forget—the historic Battle of Katipunan between UP and Ateneo that gave us a David and Goliath finals showdown. 

But if I had to zero in on just one favorite moment, it would be Game 1 of the semifinals between UP and Adamson, specifically the last 3.7 seconds. 

For the first time in 21 years, the UP Fighting Maroons were in the Final Four. We were up against the Adamson Soaring Falcons that had a twice-to-beat advantage. It was Game 1 and both teams were tied at 71 points with 3.7 seconds remaining. Coach Bo Perasol called a timeout. The tension was palpable, but so was hope. We were hungry for the win and that hunger conjured one of the best plays in UAAP basketball history. The daring pass by the ever-gutsy Juan Gomez de Liaño, the unexpected screen set by clutch man Paul Desiderio against AdU’s Papi Sarr—and finally, the game winning shot by the reliable Bright Akhuetie. All of these were nothing short of basketball perfection. Seriously, I must have spent days watching this play on loop. 

I came to MOA Arena that day thinking that should we lose, it would be okay. Breaking a 21-year-long Final Four drought was enough achievement on its own. But this moment was a realization for me, and probably for every UP fan as well, that hey, we can actually make it to the finals. UP was on the cusp of finals glory, and our Cinderella story started here. 

Expectations in Season 82: A championship. The last time we were champions, it was 1986 and Benjie Paras was playing. Now that we have another Paras donning the maroon jersey, maybe we’ll have another championship.  

UP vs Adamson, Semifinals Game 2 (2018)

Isha, College of Mass Communication 

We knew going into that game was DO OR DIE but man, that was the epitome of a DO OR DIE game. Both teams went hard and even the crowd spiced up the game with intense energy and playful banter (Ateneo-La Salle who?). 

That day, 40 minutes of action was simply not enough and the game went into overtime. We were down by 6 points halfway through the OT, and usually that determines an extended game but UP said nope, not today. Tired, but the fighting spirit never wavered. The finals ticket was within reach. Ginebra has Never Say Die, UP has Atin ‘to. And what better way to enter the finals than to finish that game with the best ATIN ‘TO moment from the man himself, Team Captain Paul Desiderio.

All the heartbreaks, the struggles, the pity, and ridicule the team endured over the past years have led to this defining moment of the UP Fighting Maroons, a UAAP Finals contender of Season 81. It was 32 years in the making, pero hindi talaga magpapahuli ang mga taga UP. 

Expectation in Season 82: I think people’s expectations are really high for UP but they have what it takes to reach the Final Four again and hopefully enter the finals.

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