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MANILA -- The University of the Philippines (UP) crowd was bigger than usual for their game against Adamson University on Saturday, something that did not escape the Fighting Maroons.
"Ang daming tao kanina," said veteran guard Mikee Reyes. "Alam nila na may chance kami manalo."
"Usually, walang tao," he added.
The Maroons made sure that for once in 27 games, their fans would go home with smiles on their faces. UP ended a two-year losing streak with a 77-64 victory over the Soaring Falcons, a victory that was greeted by chants of "bonfire, bonfire" by their fans.
"I'm still happy that they came out to support us," said Reyes, who scored a career-high 28 points in the game. "Finally, at least nabigay naman namin 'yung gusto nila, kesa naman na umuwi sila na malungkot na naman."
"I think (this win is) more significant for the community," added forward JR Gallarza, who also had a career-high with 24 points. "This win, I know it means a lot to the UP community."
"I know they've been struggling to support us, even through the big blows that we put them through, with like the 27 (losses) in a row, so really, this goes out to them," he added. "A big thank you for coming out to the game."
The UP community will celebrate with a bonfire in the Sunken Garden tonight, which clearly delighted both Gallarza and Reyes. The two players invited everyone - "All the supporters, the doubters, classmates, teachers," said Reyes - to come to the UP campus in Diliman and celebrate.
Reyes was also delighted to finally be able to show their supporters - and their doubters - that the Maroons were capable of playing good basketball, after a long losing streak that saw them lose by double-digits often.
"The intensity of this game, the hype - we were ready for this," he said. "We knew that everyone was gonna be there. Our friends, our supporters, even the doubters, actually."
"So that's funny, because finally, they see something in us, that we can perform even through that 0-6 start."
Gallarza admitted that it was frustrating to see and feel the hype that surrounded their game against Adamson - a team that has not won a single game this season as well.
"To be honest, I actually kind of felt a little bit disrespected and insulted that all the hype was coming into this game, when it was just two winless teams going at it," Gallarza said frankly. "It took that to bring out all of the UP crowd."
The forward expressed his hopes that the environment would be like that for other games, because "it would feel like at least an even match-up in terms of fan support in the gym."
The UP crowd was definitely a factor in the game against Adamson, cheering "bonfire, bonfire" when the Maroons built a large lead, and their chants of "UP, UP" grew louder and louder as the game drew to a close.
"They definitely gave us such a big boost," Gallarza said of the UP crowd on Saturday. "I know it just provided the energy for us to sustain up until the fourth quarter, when Adamson was going on a run in the end."