NATIONAL University’s late charge in Season 78 evoked memories of last year’s title run where the Bulldogs won the games that mattered late in the regular season on the way to winning their first championship in six decades.
“We mentioned that during the team meetings that we’ve been here before,” said NU coach Eric Altamirano weeks ago when asked whether last season’s run to the title had become a source of motivation during the trying times.
“There’s no reason we can’t do it again. But I think, this season, we have to create our own miracle,” Altamirano added.
Fast forward to this week and the miracle Altamirano is talking about is starting to become a reality.
The Bulldogs are in a similar position as last season as they began bouncing back from early struggles by winning three of their last four games to raise their overall record to 6-7.
The NU run entering the homestretch of the eliminations allowed the team to climb to fourth place in a tie with De La Salle in the race for the last Final Four berth.
This time though, Altamirano said the team doesn’t want to get ahead of itself by pointing out the similarities between this season’s late run and last year's.
“Ayaw na muna naming isipin ‘yan. If it happens, it happens. What’s important is we have to take care of our own business,” said the soft-spoken coach.
The reigning champions are obviously not out of the woods yet. The Bulldogs will face Far Eastern University on Saturday, needing a win. A loss though will hurt their Final Four hopes with La Salle needing just a victory over the Tamaraws on Wednesday to advance in the semis.
“We want to focus on taking care of our own business,” said Altamirano. “We still have FEU kaya doon kami naka-focus, then we will let things take care of itself.”
Regardless of what happens this season, Altamirano said this year’s campaign will go a long way for the Bulldogs in the future.
“Obviously, this is a completely different team from last year. There’s a lot of birth pains but whatever we are feeling right now will develop our character. We will continue to improve and work on our game and hopefully, we will be ready wherever we will be going,” Altamirano said.