Zavier Lucero’s last dance is upon us.
It’s thus no surprise that even at this point, Lucero continues to treat each possession as if it were the last one in his UAAP career. Or maybe it’s coming from the frustration of wanting to end what was an individually “meh” season for him on a good note.
On the whole, UAAP Season 85 has been a notch below Lucero’s solid showing in Season 84, where the eventual Season 84 Mythical Five Selection averaged 12.2 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.2 steals, and a block. Lucero’s numbers generally fell during the succeeding season and part of it may be because of how Lucero has become a known commodity within UAAP circles.
Opposing teams have had a season to understand what it takes to limit the Lucero of Season 84 and while the numbers do offer a gloss as to what the Filipino-American does on the court, they only tell part of the story.
Over the course of a game, one would observe that Lucero is usually on the move. Whether it’s running on the break or taking on the task of defending the opposing team’s best player, each moment for him was a chance to swing the outcome of the game into the favor of the UP Fighting Maroons. Part of it comes with following the game plan set by Fighting Maroons head coach Goldwin Monteverde, but it also comes with the breaks of the game. Lucero has always been ready to put back a missed shot, save the ball from going out of bounds, and even move to the corner for a timely 3-pointer, all of which were on display in Game 1 of the UAAP Season 85 Finals.
Sure, Lucero led UP with 14 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, but it was two defensive stops that helped bring the Fighting Maroons to within a win from consecutive UAAP titles. The ADMU Blue Eagles bucked a double-digit deficit with another strong third-quarter run that allowed them to chip at UP’s lead. During the moments the Fighting Maroons were rendered scoreless and the Blue Eagles ready to snatch momentum, Lucero was there to put an end to things.
The most important one, though, came with about 30 seconds left, with the game very much hanging in the balance. Ateneo went back to an old reliable in Ange Kouame, who more often than not has the advantage when down low in the post. Lucero, though, had other plans.
The UAAP Finals are usually where legends are made and that comes largely due to its circumstances. Playing in arguably one of the biggest stages and amidst the most tense pressure can bring out the best and worst in players. Lucero has made his mark over the last two editions of the UAAP Finals and continues to do so. Great teams are defined by those who do their roles and Lucero has hustled his way around so that the likes of JD Cagulangan, Harold Alarcon, and presumptive UAAP Season 85 MVP Malick Diouf could score.
Lucero will, however, be a marked man all the more for Game 2. He didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, but ADMU head coach Tab Baldwin will likely force the senior into committing questionable decisions. That he contributes to UP’s cause in other ways helps, but nothing renders a player who can do a little bit of everything ineffective more than errors that pile on one another.
That, nor the physicality that comes with a finals series, should not deter Lucero. Avoiding foul trouble will thus be crucial even with the depth that the Fighting Maroons have on its roster because it will be hard to replace what Lucero brings to the table.
The UAAP Season 85 Finals provide Zavier Lucero the distinct chance of winning two UAAP titles within the same calendar year. Game 1 of the UAAP Season 85 Finals saw a Lucero that had his fingerprints all over the contest and a repeat performance would more likely than not have him hanging another banner in Diliman when all is said and done.