ONLY a season ago, Far Eastern University went off to a fast start by winning its first four games in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament, yet ended up missing the Final Four.
And now that the Tamaraws have won two straight games to jumpstart their campaign in Season 76 of the league, coach Nash Racela is making sure to keep his players from getting ahead of themselves.
Back-to-back victories by the Morayta-based school against pre-tournament favorite University of the East and five-time defending champion Ateneo in overtime had the Tamaraws’ stocks suddenly rising after missing from lists of potential Final Four contenders this year.
Racela, however, was quick to point out it is still too early in the season for them to look that far ahead.
“Simula pa lang,” Racela said. “Kaya I tweeted that, ‘It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.’ That is something that we remind to our players.”
“I think they started last year 4-0. Sir Mark Molina (FEU athletic director) has been reminding them (about that) … So it’s really how you finish,” he added.
The FEU coach said the victory against the Blue Eagles on Wednesday was definitely a morale booster for the Tamaraws.
“’Yan ang isa sa mga binabantayan namin, ‘yung we become confident. First you want to have a certain level of confidence in a ballgame.”
But Racela admitted his coaching staff also wants to ensure the Tamaraws won’t be too overconfident with their early success which was the case against Ateneo when FEU found itself trailing by a double-digit margin in the first quarter.
“Like going into the game (against Ateneo), they know that Kiefer (Ravena) won’t be playing. That’s probably the reason why we started that way,” said Racela.
Following the slow start, the Tamaraws got their bearings back and survived the Blue Eagles in overtime, 79-75.
“Kahit gaano kahirap, kahit gaano kadikit, we will take it, especially with the kind of competition that we have this year. Anybody can beat you and teams are stronger than us, tanggap lang kami ng tanggap. Manalo kami ng manalo, that’s good for us,” said Racela.
After facing two tough opponents, the Tamaraws gun for their third straight win against winless University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.