FAR Eastern University is facing tall odds in its title defense, but head coach Nash Racela is confident the Tamaraws have what it takes to overcome a twice-to-win disadvantage against Ateneo in the Final Four.
The third-seed Tamaraws found themselves in a Final Four match-up with the Blue Eagles, who only need one win starting on Saturday to advance to the Finals. But Racela is defiant the defending champs can succeed despite the odds and the late struggles in the tournament.
The Tamaraws appeared to be on the verge of getting that second-seed in the Final Four following seven straight victories that gave them an 8-2 record. But FEU struggled towards the later part of Season 79, losing three in a row before breaking the slump in the final game of the elimination round against University of the East.
“We are happy where we are right now,” Racela said.
FEU takes on Ateneo on Saturday at the Mall of Asia, with the Tamaraws seeking to extend the series to a knockout match next Wednesday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Ateneo will enter the Final Four perhaps with a psychological edge after sweeping its season series against FEU. The Blue Eagles won by five, 76-71, during their first round encounter before coming away with a 74-59 win in the second round, one of the three defeats by the Tamaraws during the stretch run.
But despite failing to solve Ateneo’s riddle all season, Racela is pleased that FEU was in the thick of the fight during those defeats and believes his team is fully capable of notching the breakthrough win in the semis with the right tweaks.
“If you based it on the games we played, we know that if we make our adjustments and sacrifices for our team, we have a good chance,” said Racela.
The veteran coach also admitted that FEU’s inexperience may have led to their slump in the second round. But with their experience during that difficult stretch, he’s confident the young Tams have learned to put their struggles behind them and are capable of playing the right way to pull off the upset.
“It was really hard having a young team. At the start, we have an inexperienced group of players. I know they were struggling and the message that we have for them is commitment to do the right things and look for consistency,” he said.
“Again, it’s a process. Hopefully, everybody falls into the proper place come the playoffs,” added Racela.