Ateneo FEU clashes anew in the finals of UAAP Season 74.REDEMPTION VS REIGN.
MANILA—Ateneo sees no problem in facing a pumped up Far Eastern University in the UAAP men’s basketball championship Saturday.
Although ranged against a much improved Tamaraws, the Blue Eagles think there should be no question on their motivation to bag a fourth straight crown.
“I think people who assume that we are no longer hungry to win will be surprised,” said Ateneo coach Norman Black.
“There’s last year’s Finals,” said Flores, noting that the Tamaraws are aiming for redemption from last season’s championship meltdown. “We were badly beaten, so I think the players want to prove something.”
FEU, which clinched title berths in all divisions this season, also vie for crowns as the favorite in the women’s and juniors best-of-three Finals.
The top-seeded Lady Tamaraws clash with defending champion Adamson at 9 a.m., before the No. 1 Baby Tams take on surprise finalist National University at 11 a.m.
“The first game is really the most important,” said Flores. “I keep reminding my players that we’re almost there. Just two more weeks of staying focused.”
The Tamaraws of course, have a lot to deal with as the Eagles boast of an experienced cast—led by Nico Salva, Kirk Long and Emman Monfort—bolstered by rookie stars Kiefer Ravena and Greg Slaughter.
“We’ll continue to play the same way,” said Black of his Eagles, who topped the eliminations at 13-1 before disposing University of Santo Tomas in the Final Four.
“We normally go inside-and-out. We utilize [Slaughter's] size inside to force other teams to collapse and double-team against him.”
The Tamaraws, the No. 3 seed (9-5) who overcame Adamson’s twice-to-beat semifinal edge, are again expected to rely on their formidable backcourt bannered by RR Garcia, Terrence Romeo and Cris Tolomia.
“In a sense that’s going to be be a big challenge for us,” said Black. “We’re probably No. 1 in the league in shutting down the lane area. Now we’re going up against a team whose strength is perimeter play. We have to do a good job of not just shutting down the lane, but also to close out and challenge their shooters.”
Flores said his Tamraws have adjusted since their twin elimination loss to the Eagles.
“We have to work hard on our rebounding,” said Flores. “Ateneo is also good off transition, so we have to be ready for that.”
The Eagles surprisingly dumped the Tamaraws in the first round, 69-49, but had a tougher time in pulling off a 74-67 overtime win in their second meeting.
“The FEU team that’s playing right now is a much better team,” said Black. “They have a lot more confidence. They’re much more aggressive. They’re getting out trying to run fastbreaks and they’re really pressuring defensively.”