MANILA, Philippines — Zavier Lucero, who emerged as top two statistical leaders in the first round and led University of the Philippines’ come-from-behind win in Game 1, went scoreless in the winner-take-all finals match of the UAAP Season 84 men’s basketball tournament.
But with the other guys stepping up like JD Cagulangan, who delivered the game-winning triple in overtime, UP still managed to end a 36-year title drought with a dramatic 72-69 victory over Ateneo on Friday at Mall of Asia Arena.
Lucero may have shot 0-of-7 and only contributed on the defensive intangibles but the Fighting Maroons’ epic championship triumph just proved that anyone from their team can deliver.
“It’s never just about us or just about me, I had zero points, Carl (Tamayo) had six. That says it right there. Six points combined and look at the guys who stepped up. We’re in a good position, 1 to 16,” said the UAAP Mythical Team member after winning a championship in his first season with UP.
When UP trailed, 69-64, to Ateneo with 1:47 remaining in overtime, the 6-foot-6 forward believed his teammates still had a lot of fight in them. After all, the Maroons’ have defied the odds time and time again throughout the season.
“There’s never a doubt in our mind. It got a little shaky but we’ve seen miracles happen for this team before. Three games in a row. La Salle, Ateneo, and Ateneo again,” said Lucero. “So our last three wins have been kind of miracle works. So, God gave us, we’ll take ’em all. God-given.”
Lucero is proud to see their group achieve their goal to win it all, amid the pandemic and playing in the unprecedented UAAP bubble.
“I can’t explain it, man. We made a lot of sacrifices being here. You know, there was never a doubt in this team. We came here with one goal, and we got it done. I told the UP community, the time is coming, and here we are. So it feels good,” he said.
As the Maroons relish their first title since 1986, the team will lose seniors Ricci Rivero and Noah Webb in Season 85 set in September.
With bigger roles for Lucero and Co., the Filipino-American forward has nothing to worry about taking more important responsibilities after what his team showed in Game 3.
“Yeah it’s gonna be time for us to step up. But we had a lot of big guys step up in big ways tonight,” he said.
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