UNIVERSITY of Santo Tomas head coach Boy Sablan remained upbeat even as his squad dropped its fifth straight game to open the UAAP Season 80 after a 94-84 defeat at the hands of the unbeaten Ateneo on Wednesday.
The 0-5 record was the worst start that the proud community had in the Final Four era, but Sablan would rather focus on the positives in the loss, especially after giving the Blue Eagles their first real scare of the season.
Looking dead in the water after falling behind by as many as 22 points in the third quarter, 69-47, the Growling Tigers put up a gallant stand and trimmed the lead to just five, 76-71 entering the fourth period.
They got as close to as one, 81-80, before the Tigers ran out of gas, with Ateneo finishing the game on 13-4 run.
That’s why Sablan couldn’t help but feel good despite the defeat, after seeing his young team grow better as games go by.
“Twenty two points down nakahabol pa. Unlike before, pag ganun, wala na. This year, napakita namin ngayon kung ano kami,” said Sablan after the match.
“Five losses but we still keep on fighting. We fought back 22 points to one. Lalamang sana kami kung di lang medyo nag-TO,” he added.
That’s why there’s no hint of panic from Sablan, thinking that he’s got a team on the rise amid the losses.
“Hindi (ako nagpapanic). Kasi yung development ng players ko, yung improvement na nagawa namin from last year’s team napakalaki which is di lang ako nagsasabi,” said Sablan.
“This year is better even with losses considering the fact na eight new faces talaga to. Happy ako sa team kahit ganun, we are fighting ‘til the end, medyo kapos lang… medyo siguro kinakabahan din ibang nakalaban natin ng konti kasi iba rin yung team ngayon,” he added.
Things won’t get any easier for the Growling Tigers, though, as they take on La Salle on Saturday as their next assignment.
Despite the odds being heavily stacked against them, Sablan is hopeful that these past few games could serve as a confidence booster as they take on an angry La Salle squad looking to bounce back from its first defeat of the season.
“Yung ginawa nilang humabol from 22 points down, kahit sinong player tataas ang confidence. Kasi iisipin nila nagawa namin yun… binibigay yan sa tamang panahon. Hindi natin alam kung kailan pero darating rin yan,” said Sablan.