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UAAP cage wars begin




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UNIVERSITY of the Philippines was a win short of forging a playoff for the last semis berth last year.

That “missed opportunity”, ac­cording to head coach Bo Perasol, is already a motivation for the Maroons to go all-out as the 81st UAAP basketball tournaments fires off today at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena in Pasay City.

“We have prepared for this sea­son the best way we can. I believe we are ready to battle against anybody,” said Perasol.

Whether they’re indeed ready will be known when the Maroons take on the University of the East Warriors at 2 p.m., while season host National University and Uni­versity of Santo Tomas clash in the second game at 4 p.m.

A grand opening ceremony is set at 12 noon.

Focus is also on two coaches debuting with Joe Silva opens his stint with the Red Warriors while Aldin Ayo – formerly of La Salle – will launch his “mayhem” with the Growling Tigers.

Perasol’s confidence is palpable due to the presence of former Perpetual Help star in 6-foot-8 Ni­gerian Bright Akhuetie.

Akhuetie is expected to provide the strength in the middle which the team lacked in so many year.

Aside from Akhuetie, UP will also rely on graduating guard Paul Desiderio, while backing them up are brothers Juan and Javi Gomez de Liaño, Jun Manzo, and Gelo Vito.

“We will play UE the way we are supposed to play any other team. We are focused on what we can do,” said Perasol.

Silva, on the other hand, ex­pects a tough encounter with UP.

“UP is a very strong team. In fact they are contenders for the Final Four. We are excited to play and see how we fare against them. Our team is ready for today’s game ver­sus UP,” said Silva.

Streak gunner Alvin Pasaol, who exploded for 49 points in an elimi­nation round game against the Ar­chers, will spearhead UE’s cam­paign along with Philip Manal­ang, Jason Varilla, Chris Connor, and transferee Ric Gallardo.

“We will give our best and fight our hardest. We will focus on doing our jobs and doing the right things,” said Silva.

Meantime, Gilas Cadets stand­out Troy Rike will lead the Bull­dogs’ young core that also in­cludes brothers Shaun and Dave Ildefonso, John Galinato, Enzo Joson and John Lloyd Clemente, with Issa Gaye manning in the middle.