MANILA, Philippines—A tough loss in Game 1 of the UAAP Season 81 men's basketball finals won't stop the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons from appreciating the huge crowd that came out to support them at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Almost 21,000 fans packed the Pasay venue last Saturday, with more than half of them clad in UP's trademark colors.
They never stopped cheering for the Maroons, even after they absorbed an 88-79 loss to the Ateneo Blue Eagles. Long after the final buzzer, chants of "UP Fight" and "Unibersidad ng Pilipinas" continued to ring through MoA Arena.
"It was just something else," UP coach Bo Perasol said when asked about the atmosphere.
Buoyed by the support of their fans, the Fighting Maroons overcame a twice-to-beat disadvantage against Adamson in the final 4 to advance to the championship round for the first time in 32 years. With those same fans going through great lengths just to watch them live, Perasol said there was no way they could let them down by playing poorly.
"One of the reasons why the guys didn't fold up was, nakakahiya naman sa community, sa kind of crowd that we had there," said Perasol, whose team trailed by 10 in the first quarter, but rallied to go toe-to-toe with Ateneo until the final quarter.
"It's just amazing. It pushes you," he said. "It gives you the extra boost, despite the fact that you're tired."
"Whenever Juan (Gomez de Liano) sees them, Paul (Desiderio) sees them, you can't think about being tired, when people in this kind of magnitude can cheer for you," he explained.
Unfortunately for the Maroons, the crowd support wasn't enough to push them past the finish line, at least in Game 1. Nevertheless, Perasol believes the team's performance against a powerhouse Ateneo squad still gave fans something to applaud at.
"You have to deliver for them," he said. "You have to give them something they can be proud of."
The UP fans and their Ateneo counterparts are expected to come out in even bigger numbers on Wednesday, when the series shifts to Araneta Coliseum for Game 2.
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