ATENEO has its eyes set on its ultimate goal in the elimination round as the Blue Eagles seek to clinch a twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four on Saturday against well-rested University of Santo Tomas in the UAAP seniors basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The UST-Ateneo match-up, set at 4 p.m., is seen as a possible preview of this year’s championship series.
With their 11-2 win-loss record, the Blue Eagles had focused on claiming a place in the top two before they training their sights on a fifth consecutive crown.
“That’s the goal, to land in the top two spots preferably No. 1,” said Ateneo coach Norman Black. “As history showed, we didn’t win the crown if we are in the third or fourth spot so we know how important (the incentive) is.”
So far, the Blue Eagles are only team assured of at least a playoff for a twice-to-beat incentive in the Final Four with UST and Far Eastern University still with a chance of reaching 11 wins.
The Tigers, meanwhile, had the luxury of a long rest going into the rematch against the Eagles.
Sitting in second place in a tie with Far Eastern University with a 9-3 win-loss card, UST has not played since September 8 when they beat University of the Philippines, 75-68.
“Well-rested kami, ang preparation namin parang offseason training at ‘yung detalye kung ano kailangan gawin,” said UST coach Pido Jarencio.
UST also handed Ateneo one of its two losses of the season when the Tigers came back from a 17-point deficit to beat the Blue Eagles, 71-70, last July 19.
Jarencio, however, shrugged off the game’s label as a possible championship preview.
“Malayo pa, basta kami, one game at a time,” said Jarencio.
University of the East (3-9) battles Adamson (2-10) at 2 p.m. in a battle between two teams that have long been ousted from the Final Four race.