AFTER playing do-or-die matches in successive weeks, Pido Jarencio and the University of Santo Tomas Tigers welcome the one-week break before Game Three of the UAAP Season 76 men’s basketball finals against De La Salle.
Jarencio said his Tigers haven’t had the opportunity to completely rest since playing three sudden-death matches in a span 11 days to reach the finals.
The Tigers played their last elimination-round match against Ateneo on September 18 to determine the fourth seed, then overcame twice-to-beat top seed National University in the Final Four that ended September 28.
Game One of the finals was played October 2 and Game Two was held three days later.
“Sunod-sunod kaming naglaro,” said Jarencio. “Maganda na makapahinga naman kami.”
Now they get ready to play another winner-take-all match on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena, a full week after the Tigers bowed to De La Sale, 70-77, in Game Two.
The Archers have had a smoother run.
La Salle also had one extra match after the eliminations, defeating Far Eastern University in a playoff for the No. 2 seeding before repeating over the Tamaraws in the Final Four to reach the finals.
But La Salle had been assured of a Final Four seat with a few elimination-round games to spare and had seven days’ rest before Game One of the finals. And although the Archers lost the series opener, Jarencio believes they were not as exhausted mentally and physically as the Tigers, and it showed in Game Two.
“Sila nakapagpahinga kaya ngayon, sila naman ang nakakuha ng bearings nila,” said Jarencio.
The UST coach said Jeric Teng and Aljon Mariano will benefit most from the one-week rest.
Teng gave his all in Game Two and collected 28 points for UST in 34 minutes of action but the Tigers still bowed to the Green Archers.
“Oo, napagod talaga siya. Dapat hindi siya napagod kasi ’yung kapatid niya hindi napagod,” said Jarencio in jest, referring to Jeron Teng who led La Salle with 19 points.
Mariano had been struggling even before the Final Four against National University. The UST forward even committed a turnover that nearly cost UST Game One, but the match was salvaged by a Karim Abdul block for a 73-72 win.
Jarencio is keeping the faith, though, and while Mariano did come up with a better output in Game Two with nine points in 36 minutes of game action, the veteran coach is expecting him to deliver the goods in the season finale.
“Actually, nung NU series pa siya nawawala. Pero malay natin. We have one week na mag-adjust,” said Jarencio.