FROM coach Pido Jarencio down to the 12th man in his lineup, the University of Santo Tomas Tigers have embraced the underdogs' role in the UAAP Finals against Ateneo.
“Unang-una, four-time champion sila. Ang tanong, kung ma-dedefend ba nila uli,” said UST point guard Jeric Fortuna shortly after the team’s practice on Wednesday afternoon at the brand-new UST gym.
Jeric Teng also insisted they should be the underdogs as they continue to heap pressure on the Eagles, who have been the favorites in the form charts from Day One of the season.
“Siyempre, going five-peat sila and coach Norman (Black) gusto umalis mag-champion," Teng said.
“Kami, on paper, nasa five and six kami tapos Ateneo, laging No. 1. Ang maganda sa amin, underdog kami, laro lang kami,” said Teng, whose father Alvin once played by Black in the PBA.
Jarencio echoed the same view.
“Pre-season, hindi kami pinag-uusapan," he said. "Nothing to lose kami.”
But after splitting their season series with the Eagles, both Fortuna and Teng admitted they have the materials and the mindset to beat Ateneo and end one of the longest reigns in the country's premier college league.
“Underdog kami pero maganda ang pinakita namin sa kanila. Confident kami sa series,” said Fortuna, who’s in his fifth and final year with the team.
Continuous rains forced Fortuna, Teng, and the rest of the Tigers to conduct a relatively light practice three days before Game One of the best-of-three series on Saturday at the MOA Arena.
“Monday at Tuesday pagpag lang, magsisimula na rin kami ng hard para condition rin kami,” said Fortuna, a former De La Salle-Zobel standout in the UAAP juniors division.