Mendoza: Watch out for UP in Season 82

Al Mendoza
CEBU Archbishop Jose Palma has urged the faithful to pray for the blessings they received in 2018 and for President Rodrigo Duterte.He appealed to the public not to cheer on the chief executive’s unflattering

STILL the talk of the town is Ateneo’s swamping of University of the Philippines this week.

But from any angle you want to see it, the Blue Eagles sweeping the Fighting Maroons in the best-of-three UAAP Finals wasn’t a surprise at all.

One, Ateneo was seeded first in pre-tournament predictions.

Two, UP wasn’t even given a Chinaman’s chance to enter the championship showdown.

As predicted, Ateneo topped the two-round eliminations with nary a sweat dropped.

Ateneo’s anticipated clash with La Salle did not materialize this year because the Archers were simply too inferior, having a line-up lacking in both punch and ceiling.

La Salle lost its top slotman, the 6-foot-8 Ben Mbala, to a professional league in Mexico, and then Ricci Rivero, Taft’s former high-profile gunner, left after a spat with school officials.

Reports said Rivero resented officials’ move to ban him from endorsing products, forcing him to quit and eventually landing on the UP roster.

Thus, it would really be interesting when Rivero finally suits up as a rookie Maroon next year after completing his one-year residency status.

This early, pundits say that with Rivero around, coupled with Kobe Paras’ return to the Maroons, that would make UP a more serious title contender in Season 82.

The duo would be a formidable replacement to the graduating Paul Desiderio, the UP captain who had gloriously brought the Maroons to the Finals with his sterling leadership and gutsy plays.

The Maroons bowed to the Eagles, yes, but Desiderio’s mission for UP had been completely accomplished after Paul almost single-handedly powered his team past Adamson in the Final 4 skirmishes.

As history beckoned, Desiderio marshalled UP’s almost impossible task of beating Adamson two in a row to obliterate the Falcons’ lofty twice-to-beat incentive.

With that done, Desiderio made Bo Perasol surpass his modest dream of piloting the Maroons to the Final 4 semifinals.

The title showdown therefore with Ateneo was just a bonus for UP. But what a bonus it was, as it ended UP’s 32 years of a title-clash drought.

I can’t wait to see Season 82 come along.