EVEN if Far Eastern University has reached the Philippine Collegiate Champions League (PCCL) Final Four, coach Nash Racela is under no illusion that the Tamaraws will be fine without former stars Terrence Romeo and RR Garcia.
The Tamaraws clinched a berth in the round-robin Final Four of the PCCL after beating last year’s champion University of Santo Tomas last Tuesday, but there was one stretch in the endgame when Racela felt they sorely missed their erstwhile go-to guys.
During that stretch, the Tamaraws blew a 21-point lead and looked on their way to defeat until the Tigers started missing free throws - and FEU started making theirs to escape with a 71-68 victory.
“Na-expose talaga ‘yung weakness namin because we lost two guards,” Racela said afterward. “Siguro hinahanap namin ‘yun. Tama lang ‘yun, kahit ako ‘yung coach (ng kabilang team), gagawin ko ‘yun.”
The FEU coach said the time from the PCCL to the next UAAP season will be devoted to finding and developing guards who can fill the gap left by reigning league MVP Romeo and playmaker Garcia.
Some encouraging signs were seen during the game against UST as back-up guard Achie Inigo rose to the occasion and delivered eight points for the Tamaraws.
But Racela knows it will not be an easy transition for the Tamaraws.
“I think between now and the UAAP, that’s our objective, to develop the other guards. We had to use seldom-used players and maganda ang linaro nila,” said Racela.
The Tamaraws also face an uphill fight in the Final Four of the PCCL, where they will be up against reigning UAAP champion De La Salle, NCAA titlist San Beda, and Southern Islands titlist Southwestern University of Cebu.
Already without Romeo and Garcia, the Tamaraws will also be without Racela and Mark Belo, who have both left for Mynmar with the Gilas Pilipinas team competing in the 2013 Southeast Asian Games.
The Tamaraws begin the Final Four against San Beda on Monday.
“Strong team, champion team, dominating team,” said Racela, referring to the Red Lions.