ATENEO sees University of Santo Tomas as its toughest finals foe yet in in a dream run in the UAAP seniors basketball championship that has put the Eagles on the threshold of a fifth straight title.
“This might be the hardest championship to win because UST is a tough opponent,” said Ateneo team manager Paolo Trillo during Tuesday’s Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum at the Shakey’s Malate.
“To close out a championship mahirap at nakakapagod kaya focus right now is prepare the best we can,” Trillo added.
Game One of the best-of-three championship series is set on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena pitting two squads which split their season series by an average winning margin of 1.5 points.
UST coach Pido Jarencio said that the Tigers are hungry to win the title this season after waiting for six years to return to the finals.
“Nag-fa-Final Four kami pero walang finals appearance. Preseason, hindi kami pinag-uusapan. Kaya nothing to lose kami,” said Jarencio, who led the Tigers to the UAAP title in 2006 against the Blue Eagles.
“’Yung 2006, more of destiny ‘yun. (Itong) 2012, more on preparation,” Jarencio added.
Coming off a gruelling Final Four series, both teams took advantage of the long break to rest their bodies in time for the finals.
“In-off ko muna ‘yung mga bata ng one day. Okey naman kasi ang maganda sa amin, pag-gising nila, nandoon lang ‘yung court (outside the players’ quarters). Anytime, ‘yung mga bata lalabas lang kapag gusto mag-shooting. Ready naman kami,” said Jarencio, whose team defeated National University, 63-57, en route to the finals.
The Blue Eagles, meanwhile, had to make the finals the hard way as they needed the heroics of Kiefer Ravena to defeat La Salle, 66-63, in the semifinals.
“After that tough game against La Salle, pagod ‘yung team right now pero nag-off kami noong Sunday. Right now, we are preparing for the game on Saturday. The team is looking to stay focused and healthy until Saturday,” said Trillo.
The Tigers will not only be looking to stop the stars of the Blue Eagles but also their second stringers as well.
“Top four nila si (Greg) Slaughter, (Ryan) Buenafe, (Nico) Salva and (Kiefer) Ravena pero si (Juami) Tiongson maganda rin ang linalaro. Malakas ang Ateneo because they work as a team and play as a team offensively and defensively,” said Jarencio.
The same goes for the Blue Eagles.
“Marami silang players na puwedeng mag-contribute. It’s the whole team that we are worried about,” said Trillo.