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UP ‘already a winner’ despite runner-up finish: Guiao

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Coach Yeng Guiao is all praises for the University of the Philippines (UP) despite falling short of a Cinderella finish in the UAAP men’s basketball season.

“UP is already a winner, whatever happens,” Guiao said in a recent interview. Guiao played for the Fighting Maroons from 1977-1980.

With Bright Akhuetie finally playing after redshirting the previous year, many saw UP making a solid run for the Final Four.

However, a 1-3 start put the team in a tough position of missing the cut.

The Maroons then won seven of their remaining 10 games, including five of their last six with star playmaker Juan Gomez de Liaño giving up his starter spot, to barge their way to the Final Four for the first time since 1997.

They then squandered the Adamson Soaring Falcons’ twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four with Paul Desiderio providing another “Atin ito!” moment through his game-winning jumper in Game 2 to make a return to the finals for the first time since becoming champions in 1986.

Although UP got swept by Ateneo in the best-of-three championship series, Guiao, who is currently the head coach of NLEX and Gilas Pilipinas, finds UP’s finals appearance enough for its season to be considered super successful.

“They’ve overachieved already,” he said.

With the Maroons’ current core led by Gomez de Liaño, older brother Javi, Jun Manzo, and Bright Akhuetie to be bolstered further by the return of Noah Webb and the arrival of transfer players Ricci Rivero and Kobe Paras, Guiao thinks they have all the tools needed to win it all.

“(With) the way UP has been playing — their desire is really high, and Coach Bo Perasol is doing an excellent job — they’re all motivated, they all know their roles, they’re not intimidated. With that kind of attitude, that kind of a team, you always have a chance,” Guiao said. (PNA)