After nearly being ruled ineligible at the beginning of the season, Ibrahim Quattara is just happy to be on the court for the Fighting Maroons.
MANILA, Philippines - In a must-win third game for both teams, the UP Fighting Maroons came out on top, 84-71, against the still winless UE Red Warriors.
The Warriors of Sampaloc shot out of warmups to an early 14-point lead thanks to their patented full court press defense and fast breaks. At the end of the first quarter, UE held a 27-18 lead over the stunned Maroons.
Then Paul Desiderio happened. After shooting a horrible 3-of-18 from three-point land in his first two games, the captain righted the ship with 3 straight pull-ups from downtown, erasing the Warriors’ lead and mounting an advantage for UP. This was all the rest needed to relax and get going on their own, including Quattara, who corralled all misses at both ends of the court.
With UP enjoying a 23-point lead at the fourth after trailing by 14 at the first, it was only a matter of holding ground as they coasted to the finish line.
Desiderio double-doubled with a game-high 28 points and 10 boards on an improved 9-of-16 shooting with 5-of-9 treys. Quattara arguably outshined the King Maroon however, with 14 points, 18 rebounds (7 offensive) and two rejections – career-highs across the board.
Heading into their Saturday tussle with the feared defending champion DLSU Green Archers, Perasol said the UE game was a much-needed momentum boost. “We are faced with a very tough schedule in the upcoming weeks, so we needed to get as [many] wins as we can,” he said.
Though he is set to face the Cameroonian monster Ben Mbala in their next game, Quattara is not too worried about it. “What can I say? It will be a good match, a good experience for me. As you all know, he’s a strong player, a good player. But for me, it’s not just about what I can do; it’s about what we can do as a team.”