ADAMSON University and Ateneo — locked in a tight battle for the No. 4 spot in the Final Four — play separate foes as the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 86 men’s basketball tournament resumes Saturday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Hoping to reprise their late Final Four push from last season, even without their top gun Jerom Lastimosa, the Falcons are aiming for a second straight win against the last-place University of Santo Tomas at 2 p.m.
The Blue Eagles, who have also suffered two consecutive losses, are hoping that the week-long break will help them reset as the defending champions face National University at 4 p.m. Adamson and Ateneo are currently tied in the fourth spot at 4-5, and every game is crucial for both teams.
The Soaring Falcons are wary of the Growling Tigers, who are at 1-8 and are determined to finish the season strong. They can spring surprises if everyone is on the same page in the game. In the first round, Adamson had a tough time defeating UST in overtime, 79-76.
Soaring Falcons head coach Nash Racela remains optimistic that the Falcons will still be in the Final Four mix, even without Lastimosa, whose collegiate career came to an abrupt end due to an ACL injury.
“Of course, happy because they have been competing. It is because of the players,” Racela said. “It is a struggle but as long as there’s a window, there’s hope as you can see it look at the standings.
“I just want them, especially the players to look at the big picture and look at the positive side of things. We always remind them that there’s still life, then it’s really up to them how they respond,” he added.
Coach Tab Baldwin respects his counterpart Jeff Napa as the Blue Eagles seek to avenge their 64-77 loss to the Bulldogs, which was the Katipunan-based squad’s first season-opening defeat in 10 years.
Ateneo’s roller-coaster season continues, with losses to Far Eastern University, 59-62, on a buzzer-beating triple by L-jay Gonzales, and the University of the Philippines, 65-60.
NU hopes to rebound from a 78-88 defeat to La Salle. With a 7-2 record, the Bulldogs are a game behind the league-leading Fighting Maroons (8-1) and are trying to fend off the Green Archers (6-3) in the chase for the second twice-to-beat slot in the Final Four.
Baldwin wants his Blue Eagles to focus on what lies on the table and not be concerned with their current standing.
“I think the biggest weakness of our team is that they still don’t have playing chemistry,” Baldwin said.
“Playing chemistry is not just like ‘we like to play together’. It’s having a collective understanding of where your efficiencies are. Everybody who knows anything about chemistry knows that you can’t create a good formula. You have to get the right elements working together in the right way,” he added.