It was supposed to be a normal breezy afternoon. A pale cloudy Wednesday in the middle of a staggering week full of examinations that should have been just another tiring day for the students of UPLB. But November 28 was not that day. If anything, it exceeded everything that is of normal for the UP community.

The do-or-die Final Four game between the UP Fighting Maroons and Adamson Soaring Falcons was everything that it was expected to be. Flashing in two gigantic LED TV in the infamous Carabao Park, there we are, hundreds of students and spectators anxiously watching, praying and cheering for our beloved alma mater to finally put an end to a historic 32 year drought for a UAAP Finals appearance.

And when the final buzzer of perhaps, one of the greatest, if not, the greatest UAAP game to date sounded, the chaotic scene of jubilation was unexplainable. But more than the joy of finally entering the Finals, it was the feeling of relief and winning satisfaction for the Fighting Maroons after surviving an all-out brutal slugfest of a game that made it much more meaningful. Because what transpired and what we witnessed from the Fighting Maroons is not just winning a do-or-die basketball game.

It reminded each and one of us why the mantra UP FIGHT is not just any battle cry. But the spirit and the sole embodiment of what a true Iskolar ng Bayan really is.

The whole game itself, was a mess. It was a nip and tuck, grit and grind affair that showed why the game is so important for both teams with their all-out hustle as players dive for loose balls and with their defensive slugfest executions.

Every basket was hard earned as the physicality of the game became very evident throughout the game.

There were stretches in the game that UP is seemingly gaining control of the game only to be answered by spitfire runs from Adamson that made for a nerve wrecking, back and forth game.

And for all intent purposes, the life in the university can also be messy. It can also be an up and down, roller coaster of a ride.

Because just like the players that fearlessly dove for loose balls like it was the golden egg from the fourth movie of Harry Potter, we also tend to relentlessly push ourselves to save the things that matter – every point in every quiz or every exam that we take.

And as hard as it is to convert a single basket during the game, that benevolent diagonal line that we desperately covet indicating a correct answer are also hard earned if not for the physical toll that we usually take during our late night studies and sleepless nights.

When UP seemingly took command of the game in the third quarter, every one of us was up in joy and are upping the noise as if the game was already won. After all, the momentum was rolling and Adamson felt like a deflated team.

It was like that brief moment of pleasure when we received good scores in our first few exams and feel really good about ourselves.

Adamson, however, mounted a comeback at the very same quarter and took the lead at the end of the period. And just like that, silence struck upon us. Questioning what just happened and what went wrong.

Like a said, it was a “brief moment” of pleasure. Because just like the meltdown that took place for the Fighting Maroons, breakdown and ensuing failures are also inevitable. And it is only a matter of whether we would fight and bounce back or drown from it.

The Fighting Maroons chose to fought back again and refused to be taken over by the wave of momentum from their opponents because why should they? After all, getting into the Final Four was historic enough so why be only content with it?

It was as if they were showing us that even in the middle of our crossroad doubts amidst all the failures and meltdowns, why should we stop fighting?

We are already here.

Why stop now?

After weathering the storm in the third quarter, it was back to square one in the final quarter with both team scrapping and clawing their way to edge out each other up until the final sound of regulation like students scrapping their way to a good enough finals score to pass a certain subject.

Of course, the game went to overtime as it should be. Because delaying and prolonging the agony of pain or relief is one that UP is accustomed to. Sabi nga, “Kapit lang tayo sa removals”.

And with just a little over two minutes to go in the overtime.

Down six.

Stacked against the odds.

What do you do?

With just a few days left in your semester.

70 to pass.

60 to remove.

Stacked against the odds.

What do you do?

Everyone knew that for UP to pull the game off, it was time for them to hit the clutch button. But no, the Fighting Maroons did not hit it.

Instead, they stamped their foot on it and never let go.

Led by team captain Paul Desiderio who scored two go ahead baskets in the end game, UP finished the game with an 11-3 run and capped off their miraculous Finals run.

And so, as we all jumped and screamed for the victory of our men’s basketball team, it was only fitting that their “clutch” moment happened during the stretch of a last hurrah in the semester.

Because what Maroons displayed in the game is what everyone of us badly needed – the clutch genes and the heart to fight even if stacked against all odds.

For 32 years, the UP Fighting Maroons has been fighting will all their grit. And finally, they are exempted from the Finals no more.

For us, however, the fight is only just beginning again.