Final Four appearance never in question for Juan GDL in the first place

Special Olympics athlete Matthew Millett of Team USA with the 3/4 court buzzer beater!

Confidence was never really an issue for Juan Gomez de Liano.

That fact was already evident from the get-go in his freshman season, where he promised coach Bo Perasol and many others that UP would make the Final Four as soon as he donned the school’s colors.

He’s a year late on that guarantee, but at least he delivered.

“I actually thought last year nga sana, but we fell short. I promised ever since last year, I told everyone that we’ll make it to the Final Four,” he bared.

“Ever since I committed, I promised (coach Bo Perasol) a Final Four spot as soon as possible. Here we are right now. We’re here.”

Last season’s Rookie of the Year scored 27 big points built on four threes to lead the Fighting Maroons to a romp of La Salle. The win ended the Diliman-based side’s 21-year Final Four drought and set them up for a second round matchup against Adamson.

The younger Gomez de Liano, who is usually calm and collected on the court, was also seen bursting into tears before the buzzer sounded. This win, as it turns out, was a personal one for him too since he had to endure fruitless campaigns with UPIS back in the juniors’ basketball tournament.

“For me, it took me six long years to get to this point. All the hard work has paid off. All the early mornings and late nights, just working together, has paid off,” he said.

When asked if he thought UP would miss a shot at the Finals after a 3-4 start in the first round, Juan adamantly answered in the negative.

“No. No, no, no, no, no, no. We just really stayed together and we never gave up even though we had a lot of struggles and ups and downs. We just stayed together and I think that’s the most important thing,” he explained.

“Those struggles brought us where we are today.”

Beating the Falcons will be a Herculean task given the way they tormented UP late in the clutch twice this season. But if the team plays as well as they did in the last six games — where they won five of them — they might have a legitimate shot of pulling the rug on their foes.

For Juan, they just need to stick together.

“We just have to work together. We should stay on the same page. We shouldn’t get to the point where we’re selfish or taking more shots. We should play together as a team,” he stressed.

“The team’s very hungry to win a championship. We’ll have to work.”

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