CEBU CITY – The Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu Magis Eagles seek to soar to a fifth straight crown against a University of the Visayas squad that is eager to exorcise the demons of past losses to the blue and white, in Game 1 of the best-of-three finals in the 17th Cesafi high school basketball tournament on Tuesday.
The Baby Lancers have had Magis Eagles’ number this season, sweeping their way to the finals counting a 61-58 victory over Ateneo de Cebu.
But as dominant as UV has been this year, Ateneo de Cebu head coach Rommel Rasmo said that the drive for five can be accomplished with the right mindset, something he believes they didn’t have when they first met the Baby Lancers this season.
“I think Andrew's (Velasco) accident the previous game was one of the factors that (led to the loss to the) Baby Lancers. Although they really played well, at that time, we were still in shock. It's really hard to overcome that kind of incident because we had to adjust in a short period of time. But I am proud of my players on how we finished the game,” said Rasmo.
It can be recalled that Velasco, the team’s leading scorer at the time, suffered a gruesome leg injury prior to the game versus UV, ruling him out for the rest of the season.
Two-time reigning league MVP and one-time Batang Gilas guard Jed Colonia, who is now back to 100 percent after recovering from an ACL injury earlier this year, admitted that not having his backcourt mate by his side impacts the team’s game plan.
However, he praised Velasco’s willingness to sit on the team’s bench in spite of his injury and cheer his mates on.
“It's a huge factor. Yet it's also an extra motivation for us seeing him on the bench with the team and still showing heart in support for the brothers. We prepared and we're ready to play,” Colonia said.
“I'm confident that we can win this championship. We'll just take it one step at a time. This is what we trained and practiced for the whole summer and for the past years. So we need to make the most out of this opportunity,” he added.
According to Baby Lancers head coach Gerald Ylaya, the fact that they have tasted defeat at the hands of the boys in blue for so long, have bolstered their resolve to chase down a title that their rivals have held for four straight years.
Meanwhile, UV has geared up for their showdown with Ateneo de Cebu, having two-a-day practices during their month-long layoff after gaining an outright ticket to the finals.
“The Baby Lancers have been denied the championship for so long that their hunger is so great,” said head coach Gerald Ylaya, adding he doesn’t really care who their opponent in the finals is.
“It does not matter if it’s the Magis or another team who is just as good. What matters is that we take what we came for. The Baby Lancers have worked too hard and too long for it.”