Arvin Tolentino, Hubert Cani prove to be a thorn in side of former team Ateneo
Arvin Tolentino all smiles at the FEU bench. Marlo Cueto

AS FATE would have it, Arvin Tolentino and Hubert Cani’s return to the UAAP Season 80 Final Four had them crossing paths with former team in Ateneo.

They definitely didn’t disappoint.

The pair haunted their former school on Sunday afternoon as the fourth-seeded Tamaraws rolled past the Blue Eagles, 80-67, to set the stage for a sudden-death match for a place in the finals. 

Tolentino and Cani were part of a group of seven highly touted recruits who last played for the school in 2015 before falling out of favor due to academic problems.

The two have since made the most of their second chance at FEU.

On Sunday, Tolentino scored 13 points on 5-11 shooting while constantly giving problems to the Blue Eagles' defense with his ability to stretch the floor.

Cani had 11 points off the bench, none more important than a back-breaking three with 2:45 to go that gave the Tamaraws a 75-58 lead with less than three minutes left in the game.

The 6-5 Tolentino said the team atmosphere he has enjoyed since arriving at FEU has eased whatever regrets he had about leaving Ateneo.

“Yun ang naisip ko na hindi na to sayang, hindi na yung  ‘Sayang, sana andun sana ako,’ kasi tinanggap ako ng buong buo ng FEU. So wala na rin sa akin yung ganun, na former team. Kumbaga natanggal na,” the former San Beda juniors star said.

Cani said a win over a team as disciplined as Ateneo is gratifying.

“Siyempre 'yan 'yung pinanggalingan namin na school and alam ko na sobrang hirap nila talunin dahil sobrang disiplinado nila na team,” Cani said.

“Kami kailangan lang namin i-lessen yung turnovers at gawin 'yung tama at maging mas disiplanado pa sa kanila dito sa playoffs.”

“Siyempre masarap yung panalo. Pero laging sinasabi ni Coach Olsen lagi, next play. Itong game tapos na to at iisipin na namin yung next game.”

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FEU coach Olsen Racela is also from Ateneo, having been part of the Blue Eagles squad that won the championship way back in 1988.

Like his players, Racela is setting emotions aside in the Final Four. 

“Wala, nagkataon lang na sila ang kalaban ko sa Final Four. Doesn’t matter kung sino kalaban ko, I’m just cherishing the experience, going up against different coaches like I said and it just so happened na Ateneo ang kalaban ko sa Final Four."

Follow the writer on Twitter: @CAJacinto11