MANILA, Philippines -- Goldwin Monteverde hailed the composure displayed by University of the Philippines (UP) in holding on for an upset victory against Ateneo de Manila University on Sunday night.
The Fighting Maroons handed Ateneo their first defeat in 1,299 days, when they eked out an 84-83 triumph at the Mall of Asia Arena in the final elimination round game of UAAP Season 84. The result ensured that there will be a traditional Final 4 this season, as UP denied the Blue Eagles an outright finals berth.
"Winning against Ateneo, siyempre it's a big achievement for us. Knowing 'yung Ateneo, they're 13-0, ang haba ng streak nila," said Monteverde, whose team lost to their Katipunan neighbors, 90-81, in their first round encounter.
Making the win more meaningful for the UP coach was the poise shown by his players throughout the game, as well as the trust that they had in each other.
The Fighting Maroons raced to a shock 27-13 lead after the first quarter and even posted an 18-point advantage, but the Blue Eagles roared back and were ahead by four points with four minutes left, 81-77.
UP made bigger plays in the end game, however. James Spencer knocked down a booming triple to give the Maroons an 82-81 lead late, and after a Dave Ildefonso layup, Ricci Rivero fished for a foul and drilled the go-ahead free throws. On defense, they snuffed out Ateneo's options in the final seconds, forcing SJ Belangel to throw up a three-pointer that hit iron.
"One thing [that's] good kanina for me is, 'yung team namin stayed as a team no matter how close the game was," said Monteverde. "May mga ups and downs along the way."
"But whatever we talked about on being a team even in times of struggle, nakita natin kanina," he added.
"Whatever 'yung run na nangyari kanina, may time na lumamang sila sa amin, hindi kami sumuko as a team," he also said. "I'm very proud of this team."
For Monteverde, the close games that the Fighting Maroons have played in during Season 84 were a big help. Before their escape against Ateneo, UP had also hacked out nervy wins against De La Salle University, Far Eastern University, and Adamson University throughout the course of the elimination round.
Their crucial possession with some 30 seconds left encapsulated the kind of trust and poise that UP had developed, as Rivero shrugged off some poor turnovers earlier in the game to bait Ateneo's Gian Mamuyac into a foul with 22.2 ticks to play.
"Marami kaming game na parang ganito, na close game. 'Yung trust nila in each other, hindi naman nawala," said Monteverde. "Hopefully, ike-carry over namin 'to sa semis."
UP ended the elimination round with a 12-2 win-loss record. They return to action on Wednesday in the Final 4 against the De La Salle Green Archers, with the Fighting Maroons holding a twice-to-beat advantage.