AFTER four days of rants, tirades, accusations and counter-accusations, focus in the UAAP Finals thankfully returns to the court when Ateneo and University of Santo Tomas play Game Two of the best-of-three series on Thursday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
A chaotic ending to the 83-78 win by the Eagles in Game One on Saturday has led to a storm that simmered for days, spawned by tirades made by outspoken UST coach Pido Jarencio directed at the referees and a comment which Ateneo counterpart Norman Black found "discriminatory."
With the controversy finally settling down, the two squads finally return to take care of business on the court where the Blue Eagles will be looking to wrap up a fifth consecutive championship and close out a memorable chapter in their history under outgoing coach Black.
Having said his piece in the aftermath of a controversy over Jarencio's 'racist' remarks, Black, who will leave the Eagles to join pro club Talk 'N Text at the end of the season, has gone back to the business of preparing the Eagles for their date with destiny.
Specifically, he has resolved to address the Eagles' poor start in Game One, holes in the team's rotation that he felt gave UST the opening to come back in the second half, and the Tigers' three-point shooting.
“We need to do a good job in our rotation because when we took out the starters (in the fourth quarter), that’s where UST made the run. We have to do a better job in our rotation next game,” Black said.
While emphasizing control of the boards and turnovers, Black said they are also cautious about UST’s three-point arsenal.
“UST plays similar to how their coach (Pido) plays during his time. They’ll go down and take threes anytime with confidence. We have to guard their perimeter players,” said Black.
For his part, Jarencio said the Tigers will be a better team after overcoming the pressure in the series opener.
“Mag-se-settle down na ‘yan at mawawala na ang pressure,” said Jarencio. “Magme-mellow down kami at mas may composure kami. ‘Yung mga weaknesses namin, maaayos namin.”
Jarencio rued that while the Tigers did a good defensive job on Kiefer Ravena in the opener, they failed to neutralize Nico Salva, who exploded for 30 points.
“Talagang maganda linaro ng bata (Salva). Sa Ateneo, tatlo ‘yan, si Salva, (Greg) Slaughter, at Ravena, kahit papaano na-contain namin si Ravena pero na-shoot niya ‘yung last second (shot),” said Jarencio.
“Ano pa ba ang gagawin namin kundi bumawi,” he added.
Jeric Teng, Aljon Mariano and Kevin Ferrer had 60 of UST’s 78 points in Game One, but Karim Abdul (nine points, six rebounds) and Jeric Fortuna (four points, including 1-of-4 from three-point range, six rebounds) didn’t have their usual numbers.
Game Three, if necessary, is set on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.