(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
12 noon -- DLSU vs. UE (W semis)
4 p.m. -- FEU vs. ADMU (M semis)
AS Nash Racela turns a year older today, the Far Eastern University coach has one simple birthday wish: For the Tamaraws to be back in the UAAP men’s basketball Finals.
Hoping to ride the momentum from last Saturday’s 62-61 win, FEU seeks to complete a reversal against twice-to-beat Ateneo in the Final Four decider at 4 p.m. today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The winner of the no-tomorrow clash will face La Salle in the best-of-three championship series starting on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Tamaraws, who are eyeing a 21st championship, thrived in adversity against the Blue Eagles, as they overcame a 10-point hole in the payoff period to give their campaign for back-to-back titles a new lease of life.
“It’s nice that our players are learning,” said Racela, who will make his coaching debut for pro team TNT KaTropa right after the UAAP. “What they learned in college for sure will benefit them in the future.”
History is on FEU’s side, as it was the last No. 3 seed to advance to the Finals, having defeated Adamson twice in the Final Four in 2011.
The Tamaraws’ playoff experience, as proven by veterans Raymar Jose and Ron Dennison’s endgame exploits, came into play.
“It might be also a factor,” said Racela.
Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin is hoping that his young crew will rediscover the maturity and composure it displayed during the six-game winning streak in the second round of the eliminations.
“We didn’t play with the sort of composure and experience that we think we have developed over the course of the season,” said Baldwin.
“It got away from us in the fourth quarter, and we paid the price. We have to make sure it won’t happen again.”
With Aaron Black’s seven straight points early in the fourth, the Eagles opened a 10-point lead before folding up in crunchtime, as Racela had high respects on his opponent.
“Ateneo is a very talented team. Lumalabas na mas magaling sila at mas experienced kaysa sa mga players namin. We will find ways,” said Racela.
With FEU finally pulling one against them on the third try, it’s Baldwin turn to make adjustments.
Baldwin noticed that the Tamaraws were very aggressive on the offensive boards, attacking the rim at will in the fourth quarter which shocked the Eagles.
“They shot 17 free throws in the fourth quarter and had seven offensive rebounds. That’s FEU basketball,” said Baldwin.
Ateneo hopes to avoid a repeat of its 2014 debacle, where it also squandered the twice-to-beat bonus as the No. 1 seed to National University, which eventually won the championship.