ARWIND Santos believes this year’s Far Eastern University team was simply ripe enough to win the UAAP men’s basketball championship.
The former King Tamaraw watched the deciding Game Three of the finals between his alma mater and University of Santo Tomas inside the San Miguel dugout at the Smart Araneta Coliseum and not once did he doubt the capability of this year’s batch to fight back at the height of the Tigers’ run bridging the third and fourth periods.
“Alam ko hinog na sila. Very relax sila inside the court kahit na lumamang pa yung UST sa fourth quarter,” said Santos just before the game between the Beermen and Mahindra Enforcers in the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup Wednesday night.
“Ito ang tamang panahon (to win a championship).”
The Tamaraws lost grip of a 10-point lead and needed to overcome a 51-57 deficit in the fourth quarter before escaping with a 67-62 win for their first ever UAAP championship in a decade - or since Santos led an FEU side to a two-game sweep of La Salle in the 2005 finals.
Santos, a former UAAP and PBA MVP, said it was actually for FEU to win or lose the championship.
“Nakakahinayang kung natalo sila kasi lamang na sila ng 10 points tapos nahabol pa,” said Santos, who got a ribbing from San Miguel deputy coach Dayong Mendoza, a consultant for UST.
“Hindi naman ako nag-cheer, niloloko lang ako ng mga coaching staff,” he said smiling.
In fairness to both schools, Santos said either one of them is deserving of winning the title, adding, “ke UST or FEU yan, pareho 'yang deserving.”
Santos stressed the need for the Tamaraws to win this year’s title as the window of opportunity is expected to close on the team at season’s end, with the likes of Finals MVP Mac Belo, Roger Pogoy, and Mike Tolomia not coming back for another tour of duty.
“Hindi natin alam kasi kung next year capable pa sila dahil maraming mawawala na sa team na ito,” he noted.
So for the moment, the Tamaraws just need to enjoy the win and savor the moment, according to Santos.
“I-enjoy lang nila. Tagal din nilang hinintay ito,” he said