THE National Lady Bulldogs are gearing up for the coming UAAP season 77 finals in a novel way, playing against a male team composed of former professional and amateur standouts.
Spin.ph caught a glimpse of the Lady Bulldogs’ 'battle of the sexes' game at the SGS gym in Quezon City, a brainchild of team patron and Ever Bilena Cosmetics president Dioceldo Sy who believes a game against male players will toughen the team up physically and emotionally.
“We usually play them. And I can say it was so tough playing them now. I am running out of breath,” said Sy, a former Chiang Kai Shek star center, a few minutes after playing against the women.
“We started doing this last year, when we were strengthening the team. Last year, they were easy to play against. Ngayon, mabigat na sila kalaban. Hirap na hirap na kami,” added the Blackwater Elite team owner.
The NU cagebelles played against the Blackwater Executive Elite, made up of current Blackwater forward Robbie Celiz, former PBA players Leo Isaac and Aries Dimaunahan and former Barako Bull coach Bong Ramos, among others.
The Lady Bulldogs lost the game, 78-85, but NU team manager Mike Tan believes the players gained a lot from the experience.
See video of the game here:
“I think it’s a good idea. The boys are stronger, faster, more effective and more experienced. And the girls get experience from them,” said Tan, former holder of the Tiong Lian single-game scoring record of 95 points which he registered in the seventies while playing for Xavier High School.
“The girls have toughened up. They now move well. They’ve learned a lot. They have new movements, movements they never do before,” added Tan.
The Lady Bulldogs will begin on Wednesday their quest for the school’s first-ever women’s basketball crown. They try to improve on their first runner-up finish last year when they take on the FEU Lady Tamaraws at 11 a.m. at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Despite a thrice-to-beat advantage, NU coach Patrick Aquino believes it will not be easy against the resilient Lady Tamaraws, who stunned defending champion Dela Salle Lady Archers in a battle for the last finals berth last Saturday.
“The team is very excited and we’re raring to go. This is our chance to redeem ourselves from last year’s finals loss,” said Aquino who is so proud to see his team complete a 14-0 sweep of the eliminations.
“We are just glad that we were able to finish the elimination 14-0. But the thing is we got to get the championship, that’s our main goal. All of these will go to waste if we don’t get it,” added the former UP Maroons center.
Aquino also encouraged his players to remain focused and forget about their unbeaten run in the elimination round.
“I just tell the girls to finish it one game at a time. We are not expecting it. Pero sana we get it in the next two games,” said Aquino. The Lady Bulldogs only need two victories over FEU in the finals.
NU star forward Shelly Gupilan vowed to go all out for the title to atone for the disappointment of last year when they lost the crown to the more experienced Lady Archers in sudden death.
“We’ve improved a lot. We’re more whole as team and we’re more on the same page,” said Gupilan, who is the wife of Arellano superstar wingman Dioncee Holt.