None of the University of the Philippines’ players and coaches could exactly describe the feeling.
After wallowing in the cellar for a long time, the Maroons suddenly find themselves up on top and unbeaten-for two games, at least-for the first time in a decade.
The feeling-I can’t say, said new UP coach Rensy Bajar after his spunky Maroons stunned La Salle, 71-66, to get off to a surprising 2-0 start and grab a share of the lead in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
We’re just happy, added Bajar, a former star playmaker of the vaunted San Beda basketball program. This is a good win for us.
The team that UP shares the lead with is also quite unexpected. University of Santo Tomas also zoomed to a 2-0 card later in the day after a 72-71 upset of tournament favorite Far Eastern U.
Veteran guard Jett Manuel-who helped the Maroons get off to a hot start and take leads as high as 17 points, 54-37, in the second half-admitted the feeling was surreal for a team that even had to deal with winless seasons in the past.
We’re still feeling high, admitted Manuel, who fired a team-high 14 points on top of five rebounds and five assists.
Paul Desiderio added 13 markers, six coming in the second quarter where the Maroon staged a 16-8 outburst to erect a double-digit lead for the first time, 32-22.
The Maroons’ last 2-0 start came in July 2005. They preserved this current win-loss card by flaunting composure amid a rally that had La Salle fighting to within four, 65-61, after a Jeron Teng drive with 45.9 seconds left.
The Maroons stayed afloat by nailing six of their last eight free throws.
Ed Daquioag led the Tigers by dropping 12 of his 18 points in the final quarter.
I was challenged with what coach said in the second half, said Daquioag, the veteran guard who pumped in his team’s last six points to put the Tigers up, 72-69, with 1:41 to go.
UP 71-Manuel 14, Desiderio 13, Longa 10, Dario 9, Asilum 7, Moralde 5, Harris 4, Vito 3, Amar 2, Gallarza 2, Prado 2, Juruena 0, Kone 0.
LA SALLE 66-Rivero 15, Caracut 12, Teng 10, Sargent 8, Torres 8, Go 5, Perkins 5, Muyang 3, Navarro 0, Trater 0.
Quarters: 16-14, 41-28, 54-42, 71-66
UST 72-Daquioag 18, Ferrer 13, Abdul 12, Bonleon 9, Sheriff 7, Vigil 6, Lao 4, Lee 3, Faundo 0, Huang 0.
FEU 71-Belo 17, Pogoy 13, Jose 12, Escoto Ru. 9, Tolomia 8, Dennison 5, Arong 4, Inigo 3, Escoto Ri. 0, Orizu 0, Tamsi 0, Trinidad 0.
Quarters: 17-14, 34-28, 54-58, 72-71