sport

Faced with a tough foe shielded by a playoff bonus, FEU hopes cracks in Ateneo armor will still show as UAAP Final Four gets underway


RJ Abarrientos (with ball) will shoulder a lot of the load on offense for FEU if the Tamaraws hope to bring down the Blue Eagles. —UAAP MEDIA

RJ Abarrientos (with ball) will shoulder a lot of the load on offense for FEU if the Tamaraws hope to bring down the Blue Eagles. —UAAP MEDIA

University of the Philippines (UP) showed how it can be done. To forge a similar upset, Far Eastern University (FEU) must stick to the template—twice—and hope the meanest team in the field hasn’t figured out a counter yet.

Ateneo, armed with twice-to-beat protection, battles FEU in the UAAP Season 84 men’s basketball tournament Final Four on Wednesday, hoping to have welded the cracks exposed in its armor by a UP team that shattered the defending champions’ aura of invincibility.

In doing so, however, the Maroons also showed the Blue Eagles what they needed to shore up on as they seek another title.

“We haven’t been in a one-possession game at the end of the game [for quite a while],” said Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin after his charges’ 39-game winning streak was cut by the Maroons last Sunday. “We haven’t been in that situation and like anything else, you need to be in those [situations] in order to be good at those.”

The Tamaraws, whose swift, free-flowing game style certainly has the potential to cause troubles for the Blue Eagles, hope that they got enough of a workout in their last preliminary phase game to prepare them for the near-impossible task of upending the heavy tournament favorites.

FEU canned University of Santo Tomas (UST), 109-65, in what looked more like a glorified workout during the Tamaraws’ last Sunday.

“[Against UST], we shot better and our defense worked especially in the third quarter that’s why we managed to pull away. We had 31 assists and we shot well, hopefully we sustain that in the next games.” said FEU coach Olsen Racela.

That next game, slated 6 p.m. at MOA Arena, will demand more from the Tamaraws if only for who is at the opposite end of the court; a team eager to bounce back from its lone setback this season.

“We know Olsen does a great job,” said Baldwin. “They’re gonna be ready. We have to make sure this loss [to UP] is useful for us. There will be lessons taken and lessons learned.”

Breakthrough victory

Also holding a twice-to-beat advantage, UP hopes to ride on crest of its breakthrough victory when it takes on La Salle in the other Final Four encounter at 2 p.m.

Maroons coach Goldwin Monteverde said their success lies on their willingness to rely on each other: “Carl [Tamayo] and Malick [Diouf] complement each other. They trust each other, even Zav [Lucero]. Hopefully we can map [out] a plan against La Salle, which is a strong team.”

The Archers proved their strength by blowing trouble-free to the Final Four. On Sunday, they breezed through the National University Bulldogs, 76-65, even with starters Justin Baltazar and Deschon Winston on sick bay. INQ

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