By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
The time is now for the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons women’s basketball program.
After years of heartbreak in the UAAP women’s basketball tournament, the UP squad finally had a winning year this Season 86 and bagged their first-ever victory against the National University (NU) Lady Bulldogs in 12 years, 72-69, last October 8, 2023, held at the UST Quadricentennial Pavilion.
The Fighting Maroons’ last win against the Lady Bulldogs dated back last August 2011, breaking the long losing spell in the collegiate hoops tournament.
It was a gut-wrenching win for the UP women’s team after banking on a clutch outing when NU clawed their way back from a 12-point halftime deficit.
Down 43-31, the Lady Bulldogs showed poise under pressure and turned the tables in the second half with their explosive scoring.
However, the Fighting Maroons didn’t back down and received solid outings from Favour Onoh and Louna Ozar.
Onoh was all over the place for UP and finished the ball game with a double-double performance of 18 points, 15 rebounds, four steals, and four blocks.
Meanwhile, Ozar, a member of the Gilas Pilipinas women’s national team that competed in the Asian Games, buried UP’s final basket with only 2.5 seconds left in the ball game.
Ozar then capped off her tremendous outing with nine points, four rebounds, and four assists, backstopped by Christie Bariquit who dropped 13 points and nine boards.
For the first time in many years, the Fighting Maroons kicked off their UAAP season with an unblemished record of three wins without a loss.
This year’s UP team will look to replicate what the 1983-1984 squad achieved when they became the last batch to clinch a title for the Fighting Maroons in the women’s division.