MANILA, Philippines -- The magnitude of their achievement did not really dawn on Bo Perasol until he looked up at the giant scoreboard hanging above the court of the Mall of Asia Arena.
Perasol and the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons were singing the UP Naming Mahal, their fists raised in triumph, celebrating a 97-81 win over De La Salle University on Wednesday evening.
It was already their second win over La Salle in UAAP Season 81; they beat the Green Archers, 67-61, in the first round as well. But this triumph was a milestone. This triumph secured UP a spot in the UAAP Final 4 for the first time in 21 years.
"Actually, hindi ko pa naiisip kanina," Perasol said when asked to describe how he was feeling at the moment of his triumph.
"But when I looked at the malaking scoreboard, while we were singing our hymn, and merong asterisk ang UP Maroons," he said.
That asterisk was meaningful: it showed that UP had joined Ateneo de Manila University and Adamson University in the Final 4. The simple sight moved Perasol to tears.
"Parang naiyak ako, parang totoo na ba 'yan? Parang merong asterisk, kasama ba kami diyan?" he said.
It wasn't as if Perasol had not made the Final 4 before. He coached Ateneo from UAAP Season 76 to 78, and made the semifinals twice in that span. In Season 77, they were even the No. 1 seed. Yet his alma mater was never far from Perasol's thoughts, even as he was on the other side of Katipunan.
"Even when I was with Ateneo, my heart goes with my alma mater because of the way we performed," he said.
Now in his third season of coaching UP, Perasol has achieved what he had set out to do -- and a little asterisk was the confirmation of that goal.
"The asterisk says it all," he beamed. "We're part of the Final 4 cast."
Of course, Perasol knows that he and the Fighting Maroons cannot stop here. The Soaring Falcons are waiting for them in the semifinals, and they are armed with a twice-to-beat advantage.
"We have so many things to do in the next couple of days," Perasol said.
"We haven't won against Adamson this season, but we need to figure out how we can," he added. "We're here, and we might as well enjoy it, and fight for it."
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