MANILA, Philippines -- University of the Philippines (UP) head coach Goldwin Monteverde acknowledges that momentum is on their side in the UAAP Season 84 finals, but he knows this does not guarantee their victory on Wednesday.
The Fighting Maroons are on the brink of ending a 36-year title drought after their epic 81-74 triumph against Ateneo de Manila University in last Sunday's Game 1. The game saw UP recover from an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter, and force overtime where they dominated the defending champions.
But the soft-spoken Monteverde downplayed their 1-0 lead in the best-of-3 series after the game.
"Siyempre, may 1-0 advantage na," said Monteverde. "Pero ang importante lang is we gotta prepare and see what happened today. We gotta look at 'yung mga lapses namin."
"For me, doon kami mag-fo-focus pa rin, on what to do. And again, as I said a while ago, maraming times na naglalaro kami ng maayos, but we gotta be really consistent," he added.
Monteverde's squad had trailed by as much as 12 points against Ateneo, before their defense kicked into another gear towards the end of the game. The hustle of Zavier Lucero saved the day for UP, as he grabbed two crucial offensive rebounds that sparked their rally.
UP, which had already mounted a comeback against De La Salle University in the Final 4, showed their grit and heart in fighting back from the deficit, but Monteverde would rather see his players perform at a consistent level all throughout the game.
"For me, malaking bagay 'yung heart ng team kanina, na I mean, para defensively mahirapan din [ang Ateneo]," he said. "Ateneo's really a good team, but again, playing together, playing consistently together, I think 'yun ang nakatulong sa amin."
Monteverde hopes to get another solid performance on both ends from James Spencer, who nailed the three-pointer that forced overtime, while also helping limit Ateneo's Dave Ildefonso. UP will also try to get Carl Tamayo going after the rookie made just four of 14 shots in Game 1.
Lucero will want to build on his second half, where he shook off a slump to provide a spark for the Fighting Maroons.
And they hope to continue playing defense at an elite level, after limiting Ateneo to just four points in overtime and forcing them to commit a shot-clock violation three times.
"Defensively, we have to trust each other, 'yung communication dapat andiyan," said Monteverde, who will try to be the first coach to beat Tab Baldwin in three consecutive games. "Wala naman, I think, na perfect formula for any team, but importante lang na be consistent in running what you do."
A win for UP will give them their first UAAP championship since 1986.
Game time on Wednesday is at 6 p.m. at the Mall of Asia Arena.