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Maroons to bare fangs

University of the Philippines head coach Goldwin Monteverde hopes that his squad will bring all the valuable lessons they learned in their first seven games into the crucial half of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 85 men’s basketball tournament.

Monteverde said the adjustment period is now over so they now have to bare their fangs and come up with a deadly performance in the second round if they want to retain their hard-earned title in the most prestigious collegiate league in the country.

The Fighting Maroons came up on top sporting a 6-1 win-loss record after the smoke of the unpredictable first round wars had settled.

But UP’s campaign for a repeat title has just begun as it braces for tougher challenges ahead in a mad dash for Final Four seats.

“Of course, we’ll strive hard to improve more from the first round,” Monteverde said.

“Hopefully, we could play better as a team (in the second round).”

The Fighting Maroons are currently on a three-game winning streak after their lone loss in the round at the hands of second-running National University.

In those three wins UP hurdled Ateneo de Manila University in overtime in a rematch of last season’s Finals, University of the East and University of Santo Tomas to close the round.

Except for the Fighting Maroons’ masterful 76-51 domination of the Tigers last Saturday, all victories of UP were cardiac games.

Come the second round, Monteverde knows that all the teams they have defeated will be looking for payback.

“For us, every time that we get on the floor, we’ll really give it our best. At the same time, it’s important for us to face the challenge and try to overcome it as a team,” Monteverde said.

The second-year mentor also welcomes the week-long break before the second round as a chance for them to recharge and recover for the tough battles ahead.

JD Cagulangan, the Season 84 Finals Game 3 hero who helped UP end its 36-year title drought, played only one game — against Ateneo — in the opening round due to a hamstring injury.

Monteverde is optimistic his prized court general will be back in action.

“Yes, definitely JD will be able to play come the second round,” Monteverde said of his ward who sat out the last two games of the first round due to the same injury.

“The last time we really thought he was healthy but things happened.”

Monteverde will again pin his hopes on leading Most Valuable Player contender Carl Tamayo, veterans Zavier Lucero, Malick Diouf, Terrence Fortea and Gerry Abadiano to sustain the Fighting Maroons’ momentum.

“As I’ve said, we don’t want to look at other teams. What is important is we consistently improve as a team,” he said.

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