Rookie Arvin Tolentino understands huge task at hand for undersized Ateneo against Bulldogs
Young Arvin Tolentino needs to deliver, being one of only a handful of Ateneo big men facing the bigger Bulldogs. Jerome Ascano

THOUGH their UAAP Final Four has been reduced to a winner-take-all match on Wednesday, Ateneo rookie forward Arvin Tolentino said they will have to remind themselves to play with a “never-say-die” attitude against the bigger National University Bulldogs.

The youthful Ateneo forward admitted that NU’s perimeter shooters killed the Blue Eagles last week, a big reason why they fell, 74-78.

“Sinasabi lang sa amin ni coach (Bo Persaol), mahihirapan talaga kami sa one-on-one, kasi yung game plan namin is to double the big men,” he said.

“Eh pinatay kami ng mga perimeter guys nila, kaya sa next game, kailangang i-balance na namin yun,” added Tolentino.

The AB Interdisciplinary Studies freshman said the leadership of veterans Kiefer Ravena and Chris Newsome have been huge for the team this season.

"Siyempre, malaking factor yung si Kief at Chris Newsome, yung leadership nila saka motivation din ni coach sa amin," he said.

But given Ateneo's lack of experience and size compared to the NU squad that boasts of playoff-tested veterans like Glenn Khobuntin, Troy Rosario along with guards Jelo Alolino and Paolo Javelona, Tolentino said their big, fighting heart should now make up for whatever disadvantages they have. 

“Undersized talaga kami, kaya kailangan mag-box out lang and gang rebound kami,” added Tolentino, whose team was badly beaten off the boards by NU, 48-33.

The 6-foot-4 Tolentino had the unenviable task of defending NU’s Cameroonian center Alfred Aroga last week, when Gideon Babilonia sprained his ankle early in the first quarter.

Aroga finished with a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds, before fouling out.

Outside the former San Beda Red Cub star, Ateneo’s frontline only has starting center Alfonso Gotladera, Gwayne Capacio and Babilonia, who will also try contain NU’s big frontline that boasts Aroga, senior forward Glenn Khobuntin, Troy Rosario and Henri Betayene, another Cameroonian back-up center.

But Tolentino vowed to give their all in the knockout match, as they try to make a return trip to the UAAP Finals after missing the Final Four bus last season under Perasol’s first year.

“Iyung attitude na never say die talaga, no matter how big yung lamang, basta lalaban lang kami hanggang sa dulo,” said the 18-year-old Tolentino.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @richava