Story and photo by Ver Marquez, Interaksyon.com
After a long while, the UP Fighting Maroons finally won a basketball crown — but not yet in the UAAP.
The QC-UP Diliman Fighting Maroons captured the championship of the inaugural FilSports Basketball Association, a grassroots amateur league, after beating Pampanga Foton, 78-68, in the title game on Friday at the Colegio de San Sebastian Gym.
Paul Desiderio top-scored for the Fighting Maroons with 17 points along with five rebounds and three assists while Ibrahim Quattara grabbed 14 points and 20 rebounds in the title-clinching win.
Despite missing 28 free throws (28-of-56) and committing 27 turnovers in the game, the Fighting Maroons somehow were able to take control of the game. They led by 14, 58-44, in the third quarter after unleashing a 23-11 run.
Foton was able to claw back and trim UP’s lead to just two, 67-65, with over three minutes left in the final frame. But the Fighting Maroons’ timely baskets and, ironically, free throws in the end-game kept Pampanga at bay.
The basketball title is a refreshing sight for the Fighting Maroons who have long suffered a losing UAAP campaign since winning their last basketball crown in 1986. The squad is so thirsty of winning that last year, after ending a horrific 27-game losing skid that spanned two years, the school gave a bonfire celebration inside the UP campus.
The FBA is headed by commissioner Vince Hizon, a retired PBA player. The league accepted players 17 years old and above and featured home-and-away games pitting some provincial and commercial teams. Former PBA players Nic Belasco and Ali Peek had their crack at coaching with Laguna BUSA Warriors.
UP and Bulacan State University were among the collegiate squads that participated in the tournament.
- This article originally appeared at Interaksyon.