MANILA, Philippines – University of the Philippines (UP) used to celebrate its wins in UAAP men's basketball as though they were championships.
Their euphoria was understandable: the Fighting Maroons spent the better part of the past couple of decades at the league's cellar, and wins were few and far between.
As recently as three years ago, the UP community held a bonfire at the Sunken Garden to mark the end of a 27-game losing streak. It turned out to be their lone win in Season 77.
But times are a-changing in Diliman. Wins are still celebrated, of course, but gone are the days when every victory is treated as though it came in Game 3 of the Finals. Instead, every win is now seen as a stepping stone to something bigger for the Fighting Maroons.
Even a victory as impressive as last Saturday's 98-87 upset of defending champion De La Salle University does not merit a bonfire.
"Mataas-taas pa ang ambisyon namin," UP coach Bo Perasol said, when asked if they will hold a bonfire to mark the victory against the Green Archers.
With Perasol in charge, the Fighting Maroons are slowly but surely shedding their tag as the UAAP's doormats. In Season 79, they booked notable wins over Ateneo de Manila University, National University, and University of Santo Tomas; in Season 80, they became the first team to beat La Salle.
But the coach stressed that there is no reason for them to dwell on that victory.
"We cannot stay on this situation," Perasol said. "We have to look forward to the FEU game next weekend."
"Ang importante kasi, makuha namin 'yung gains. This cannot be a step backwards," he added. "Sometimes, you tend to be relax, you tend to be lax about it. Parang pag too emotional ka, nawawala 'yung pagiging sharp mo eh."
"So we cannot be too emotional about this," he said emphatically.
At the end of the day, he said a win over La Salle is worth just as much as their win over University of the East the previous week – it is one mark on the win column, and does not need to be marked with a celebratory bonfire.
"It's just one win," Perasol said.
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