ROLES are reversed when Nazareth University of National University and Ateneo open the best-of-three championship series on Monday in the UAAP Season 81 juniors' basketball tournament at Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
Unlike last year's duel, the Bullpups are the favored bunch in the clash after topping the eliminations with their 13-1 slate.
NU's strength was in full display in its semifinal mauling of Adamson, 94-72, when Terrence Fortea went on ablaze and poured a career-high tying 30 points.
Also doing damage were Gerry Abadiano, Cyril Gonzales, Carl Tamayo and Kevin Quiambao as the Bullpups reached the finals for the eighth straight season.
Coach Goldwin Monteverde expects nothing less from his wards as he seeks to claim his first UAAP title.
"Siguro sa amin, ang commitment lang namin is to give our best everyday regadless kung ano mangyayari. Basta kami, bibigay lang namin lahat," he said.
Fortea also eyes revenge, especially after the Bullpups' bridesmaid finish to the Blue Eaglets last year. FEU won the Season 79 title, beating NU.
"Gusto naming bumawi talaga kasi two straight losses na sa finals eh. Sobrang motivated talaga kami," he said.
NU has psychological advantage over Ateneo after sweeping their elimination series 78-62 in the first round and 78-71 in the second round.
Blue Eaglets coach Reggie Varilla is fully aware of that.
"We know that they’ll come in very, very hungry," he said.
Ateneo does have the Kai Sotto advantage, and the Eaglets will lean on the newly-crowned UAAP Juniors MVP as they go for back-to-back titles.
Sotto, however, knows that it's not all on him as he aims to see more contributions other than those from playmaker Forthsky Padrigao, center Geo Chiu and rookie Ian Espinosa.
"Kailangan namin silang paghandaan ng mabuti kasi di sila magiging ng patsamba-tsamba lang. Kailangan din naming maging ready kasi alam naming ibibigay talaga ng NU yung lahat," the 17-year-old prodigy said.
Padrigao is still a game-time decision for the 3 p.m. duel after hurting his left calf.
Still, Varilla hopes for the best as he aims to see more guys stepping up for the Blue Eaglets.
“If hindi makalaro si Forthsky on Monday, we’ll be ready. Ganoon din naman nangyari nung first round. Ganoon lang sa team namin, kung may mawala, may magse-step up," he said.