For Juan and Javi Gomez De Liaño, the University of the Philippines' historic entry into the UAAP Final Four was a dream turned into reality.
"It took me six long years to get to this point," said second-year guard Juan, talking about his journey from high school standout to a star at the seniors level. "[I'm] just really happy for my team and the community. We did this for them."
Six short years may pale in comparison to the 21-year postseason drought by the UP faithful has endured, but it mirrored the aspirations of both a young player and a community hungry for success. Juan and the Fighting Maroons barged into the Final Four in dramatic fashion on Wednesday with a 97-81 victory over the De La Salle Green Archers.
"Six years. It took me six years. That was just it," repeated Juan, who wasn't even born yet the last time UP garnered a seat in the top four. "I've been waiting for this moment - to get to the Final Four."
Javi, the older brother of Juan, also shared that same dream even before going to college.
"This has been my dream ever since high school, ever since I played for UPIS, I wanted to promise the UP community that we'll make it to the Final Four, either high school or college," Javi shared. "Unfortunately we didn't make it in high school, now we made it, and I'm really happy, I'm happy for myself, I'm happy for the whole community for never giving up on us."
On Wednesday, the brothers played a significant role in UP's breakthrough win. Both Juan and Javi shot the lights out from beyond the arc in the first half to give the Fighting Maroons a 23-point lead. By the game's end, they had their fingerprints written all over the lopsided contest. Juan had 27 points anchored by his four triples as well as his 11 shots from the foul line. Javi was right behind his brother with 19 points, tying his career-high, and he too had four shots from rainbow country. It was the brothers' dream to make it into the Final Four and they personally saw to it that that vision was fulfilled.
"For me, my personal dream ever since high school was to make it to the Final Four," recalled Javi. "We weren't able to make it to the Final Four during my high school days. Fortunately, we finally made it so I'm really happy."
"I knew it was coming, I felt it. I actually hoped for last year but then we fell short," Juan said on reaching their goal. "But then I promised, ever since offseason last year, I had a lot of interviews and I told everyone we're gonna make the Final Four. Yeah, here we are."
Beyond the brothers' desire to enter the coveted Final Four, it was their commitment to the school that's also worth noting.
Juan was a highly-touted high school prospect since becoming an MVP in the Juniors ranks. But amidst the attention he got, he declared after high school that he was headed to UP without hesitation.
Javi, who is a year ahead of his younger brother, likewise focused on pursuing his collegiate career with UP. "I never gave up on that dream that we were gonna make the Final Four or Finals. Heading into college, I never really planned to go to other schools. I said I wanna fulfill my promise to the UP community and we will be on top again."
The dream of UP's two young stars helped give the community its first Final Four appearance in over two decades. They had a vision and stuck with it through thick and thin. Now that their dream is fulfilled, they'll aim for a bigger and loftier goal.
"Now we're in the Final Four, we're hungry for the Final Four. It was all of us working as one unit," Juan said. "I promised coach Bo (Perasol), I promised everybody. Now we're here, we're not taking it for granted. On to the next one still."
And like his brother, Javi feels just the same, "Well, we're here already, might as well aim for the championship."