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Surprise, Surprise: Here Come the UE Red Warriors

Forget 0-14. This is a different UE Red Warriors team in Season 85.

WORDS by Jone Mallorca

Make no mistake about it, the UE Red Warriors are on the come up.

Where were you when the UE squad snatched their first win of Season 85 against the FEU Tamaraws? I remember I was having an interesting conversation with my cousin about which teams will surprise us this season in landing a spot in the Final Four. As I switched over to Twitter on my phone, here comes the Red Warriors making a statement that things will be different this time around.

What made that win extra special and significant for the team was that it was the university’s first win in UAAP Men’s Basketball since October 30, 2019, which was over the NU Bulldogs in Season 82. 

Currently, the Red Warriors hold a steady 3-4 record, tied with the Adamson Soaring Falcons and the De La Salle Green Archers in the standings.

When talking about the recent success of UE in their surprising outing in Season 85, there are a couple of players in mind who have been instrumental for the team.

Starting off with the Paranada brothers as the ones leading the charge for the Red Warriors as not only being shooters on the floor, but also having the skill set to score in different ways.

During their first win against FEU, Kyle Paranada made his presence known by dropping 25 points in the ball game. A performance that was so special to the point that he looked as if he was a man on a mission. A man that was ready to dominate the ball game from the get-go. 

He took over that game with his impeccable shotmaking. Whether by crossing over defenders and pulling up from deep or by knocking down step-back three-pointers with the defender all over him, he was electrifying. Any hopes FEU had in making a comeback was squashed by Kyle Paranada’s scoring prowess as the Tamaraws had no answer for him, especially down the stretch in the fourth quarter.

As much as I loved that performance of his, nothing beats the dual-threat performance of both brothers against DLSU. Kyle had a total of 20 points wherein he was yet again providing daggers after daggers during crunch time to ice the game, while his older brother, Nikko, provided reliable shot-creating for the team with 18 points to boot. 

Pulling up for a mid-range jumper to tie the game in the fourth, staring down defenders and knocking down a deep three-ball, and silencing doubters with a wild three-point play with 37 seconds left in crunch time to bring the dub home. The brothers made their presence known in the UAAP with a signature performance. And they looked hungry for more.

UE’s success as of late isn’t only because of the 1-2 punch that Kyle and Nikko provide, but also because the Red Warriors have found themselves a gem in Luis Villegas. 

The 6-foot-8 big man does a bit of everything for this team, from being a long-range sniper at the three-point line, with being a force down low in rebounds and adding that extra rim protection, to being a player that does not have tunnel vision as he always looks to make the extra pass for his teammates. 

During UE’s second straight win against UST, Villegas looked like a man amongst boys by posting an impressive double-double performance of 17 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. 

One of my favorite plays of his during that game was at 1:15 in the third quarter, wherein he made a gorgeous pass toward Stevens that resulted in a three-point play. What made this play special from the rookie big man was his vision in spotting the mismatch down low with Stevens having a smaller defender on him. 

Some have said that Villegas is the most integral piece to the recent success of the UE Red Warriors, and even though you have the Paranada brothers on your squad, you can’t deny the value that Villegas provides while also being able to do the little things as well. 

From Jojo Antiporda, Harvey Pagsanjan, and CJ Payawal, this team is very much loaded with roster depth. And this is why their high-octane offense makes sense for them as they have the personnel to provide the goods for the team.

They have shooters, shot creators, big men that provide spacing, and a competent defense to boot. They don’t have superstars in their roster, but they play well off of one another and they go all out in every match-up. 

Speaking of playing hard, don’t be mistaken about their loss to the defending champions with a score of 84-77. That game was such a nail-biter until the end that I actually thought UE could have pulled a miracle over UP to improve their record to 4-2. But how did the Red Warriors make the Fighting Maroons sweat a little during their match-up? 

UE’s electric scoring has entered the chat.

From the Paranada brothers being a dynamic scoring duo, Villegas being a big man sniper from the three-point line to Payawal’s hot shooting. It was a thriller from start to finish as UE yet again showed their resilience even against the toughest of opponents in UP.

With just over 38.6 seconds left in the fourth quarter, with UP having the advantage of a 79-69 lead, Payawal became the Human Torch and showcased his version of a Reggie Miller-esque performance by shooting two straight clutch three-pointers to cut the lead to five. But they weren’t able to make crucial stops during crunch time and lost the game. 

Similar to their loss against the Blue Eagles, it looked like a very competitive game between the two teams during that first half, with constant back-and-forth action until they collapsed during the second half and were unable to recover.

Granted, they’re not without their flaws as a squad and still have a few growing pains to go through this season. But this is a young team with tremendous upside that will continue to flourish and grow as Round 2 of Season 85 is just right around the corner.

To doubt them now is a mistake. The UE Red Warriors continue to thrive and make their presence known in the UAAP this season. And they have only just begun.


[Photos by Vyn Radovan]