In front of a boisterous crowd clad predominantly in maroon, University of the Philippines ended two years of frustration with a 77-64 victory over Adamson University in Saturday’s University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 77 men’s basketball tournament action at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The win not only ended the Fighting Maroons’ tiresome 27-game losing skid, but the frustrations of their players that have been the butt of jokes for the same stretch as the league’s perennial doormat. Last season, UP ended their campaign with a 0-14 mark for the third time in seven seasons.
From the beginning to the end, the Fighting Maroons took control of the ballgame and padded on their 40-32 halftime advantage to a high of 24 points, 60-36, at the 4:01 mark of the third period due to a 20-4 blast led by the duo of forward JR Gallarza and guard Mikee Reyes.
However, Adamson U made one final push in the fourth quarter, led by the veteran tandem of Jansen Rios and Don Trollano, but their efforts were wiped away by Gallarza’s clutch trey with 1:41 left in the ballgame to shut the door on their chances.
The 23-year old Reyes, who had an up-and-down career with the Maroons that included two shoulder surgeries and a sudden departure from the team after one game last season, tallied a career high of 28 points on 10-for-21 shooting – erasing his previous best of 25 set during his rookie year, during UP’s 83-78 win against De La Salle on August 22, 2009.
Fil-Canadian Gallarza also notched his career-best 24 markers in the match, while last season’s top rookie Kyles Lao added 10 points, six rebounds, and four assists.
Gallarza and Reyes, who combined for 42 of the team’s 77 points in the match, rued that the community failed to gather support for them during their other games that ended in defeat and wished that they would come out in drones during the rest of the season. Nonetheless, they were both thankful on behalf of the team that the fans came out to support their cause.
“The intensity of this game, the hype even before the game – [during] the whole week, actually – [even] when we were up against [De] La Salle, I don’t think anyone was think about that game. Everyone was thinking about this game [against Adamson]. They consider this the championship game for last place,” said Reyes.
“We were ready for this [and] we knew that everyone was going to be here: our friends, our supporters, even our doubters were here, actually. It’s funny because, finally, they see something in us that we could perform even in that 0-6 start,” he added.
“To be honest, I feel kind of disrespected and insulted that all the hype was coming to this game when it was two winless teams going at it. And it took that to bring out all of the UP crowd,” rued Gallarza
“I just wished that the environment would be like that, at least an even fan support in the gym [every game] because that’s such a big boost and it provided enough energy for us to sustain up until the fourth quarter, even when Adamson was going on a run in the end,” added the 22-year old Fil-Canadian.
Trollano amassed 24 points, nine rebounds, and three blocked shots, with Rios scattering 20 markers, 10 rebounds, and four assists for the Falcons, which gained only 20 points from the rest of the squad.
The Falcons, which has not won since defeating UP in the second round last season, finish the first round at the bottom of the heap winless after seven contests.