DESPITE the two-week break and the distraction that accompanied it, Ateneo is focused and dead set on its bid for a fifth straight UAAP men’s basketball championship.
The top-seeded Blue Eagles return to the court after a 14-day rest as they battle streaking archrival De La Salle Green Archers in Saturday’s Final Four at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, needing just one win to seal a fifth straight Finals appearance.
But the twice-to-beat Eagles have to do it in the wake of the parting of ways between the school and top patron Manny V. Pangilinan which has dragged the team into the mess, with coach Norman Black only staying on after he was prevailed upon to finish the season by the business mogul.
As the uncertainty ended, Black said the Eagles are zeroing in on their Final Four match up with Archers.
“The focus is okay,” he said. “You’ll never know how they will react to the situation. But from what I can see, the focus is still there. Everybody is getting ready for the La Salle game.”
While Ateneo was on a break, De La Salle began to wax hot, winning three straight games including a 69-66 win over Far Eastern University in their do-or-die encounter on Wednesday for the remaining Final Four berth.
The Green Archers rallied from 10 points down midway in the fourth to pull the rug from under the Tamaraws.
Black admitted Ateneo will have to turn its defensive game a notch since La Salle gave up the least points and the lowest field goal percentage during the eliminations.
“My major concern probably is the fact that we have to play defense if we want to beat them. They are a very good defensive team, so you can’t go out there and score 80 points.
“If you are going to beat them, you have to defend them also.”
The Blue Eagles will also need to control the boards, according to Black.
“They are not a great shooting team, but they clean up the offensive boards so well,” said Black of the Archers.
While they won three of their last four match-up in the Final Four against Ateneo, the Green Archers will have to overhaul the Eagles’ twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four for them to make the Finals for the first time in four years.
“We need all the advantages,” said De La Salle coach Gee Abanilla. “If we have momentum, that’s fine, if Ateneo has a long layoff, that’s fine. Anyway, twice-to-beat naman sila.”