MANILA, Philippines — National University coach Jeff Napa is not putting any pressure on his wards in their must-win game against La Salle with their Final Four contention on the line in the UAAP Season 84 men’s basketball tournament on Sunday at Mall of Asia Arena.
NU, which is tied with FEU in fourth place with identical 6-7 records, has to beat the No.3 La Salle at 4:30 p.m. to keep its post-season chances alive.
If Far Eastern University wins its match against University of Santo Tomas set at 12:30 p.m, the Bulldogs have to beat the Green Archers for them to force a playoff for the last Final Four ticket against the Tamaraws.
But Napa just wants the young Bulldogs to just enjoy the game while taking care of business.
“We don’t have to pressure these players. They know what is at stake. We’re still blessed that we’re in this situation even after what happened to us from the first round to the second round,” the NU coach said.
“We will treasure this game, whatever it takes. We will compete up to the last (second) so we won’t have any regrets.”
Enzo Joson said he and his teammates are aware of the importance of their last elimination game against La Salle, which beat them in the first round, 59-55.
“I think this is a big game for us. This is what we need. If we wanna reach the next level, we have to win this game,” said Joson, who scored 15 points on 3-of-4 shooting from deep in NU’s 100-81 victory over University of the East last Thursday.
“I will remind my teammates that we have to compete day in, day out as coach Jeff always says. We will go there with the will to win. We will do everything that we can from our end to win the game.”
CHANGE OF CULTURE
The Bulldogs started the season with a 4-3 record at fourth place but lost four straight matches in the second round before regaining their winning ways with back-to-back victories over UST and UE to stay in Final Four contention.
Napa admitted his young team, led by Janjan Felicilda, Jake Figueroa and Michael Malonzo, is still a work in progress.
“We have to change the culture. That’s what I’m telling them in order to become a winner. We should check ourselves first if we’re doing things right in practice and games,” he said. “It’s hard to be a winner if you don’t have that kind of mindset.”
Napa and the young Bulldogs will see how far they will go in their first season together in their all-important game against the Green Archers.
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