FAR Eastern University coach Nash Racela prefers to focus on the big picture following the team’s exit from the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup at the hands of De La Salle, turning his sights on the coming UAAP season.
The Morayta-based squad ended their preseason campaign with an 89-94 loss to the Green Archers, the reigning UAAP men’s champion - the Tamaraws' long loss coming at the quarterfinal stage after a sweep of their six games in the preliminaries.
But instead of sulking, Racela said he saw a marked improvement in the Tamaraws against a La Salle team which he believes will be the yardstick by which all UAAP teams will be measured this season.
Thomas Torres hit seven three-pointers for La Salle to finish with 23 points, but Racela wasn’t too concerned about giving up a lot of threes to one player.
“Actually nung halftime, ‘yun ang sabi namin na if they (Archers) hit from the outside, okay lang. But ang story of this game really is we want to gauge and see an improvement from the last time we played them.
“At least, kung titignan namin today, malaki ang improvement namin,” Racela said after emerging from the FEU dugout following the quarterfinal defeat.
Racela has been adamant the Archers are the team to beat in the coming UAAP wars.
To prepare against them, Racela even welcomed a game against San Beda at the end of the preliminaries where he pointed out the Red Lions played similar to La Salle since both teams rely on their bigs for offense.
But the Tamaraws’ five-point loss to the Archers readily gave Racela hope after they were blown away by the same squad in a tune-up game nearly a month-and-a-half ago.
FEU even came close to pulling off an upset when Mike Tolomia hit a huge triple to give the Tamaraws an 87-86 lead with 1:17 left in the fourth period.
But Arnold Van Opstal came to La Salle’s rescue to preserve the victory after the Archers lost grip of a 12-point lead in the fourth period.
“I was very honest to them kanina na after we played La Salle in a tune-up game, I was very honest to say na hindi ko alam how we will beat them. Then, a month and a half after, (this happened),” Racela said.
The close defeat, according to Racela, gives the Tamaraws enough belief in themselves going to their opening day game against the Archers on July 12 at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum
“It gives us more confidence now na kaya natin,” said the FEU coach.