THIRDY Ravena, Ateneo’s main man, believes that those back-to-back defeats to La Salle and Far Eastern University are just a minor setback to set the tone for a major comeback.
The Blue Eagles and the Tamaraws dispute the right to face the Green Archers in the Finals in a no-tomorrow match that promises to go down the wire today in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“Generally the mood is still positive. We know that these two losses are just bumps that we had to go through for us to learn from our mistakes. We’re preparing well for the big game tomorrow (today) and we can’t wait to play FEU once again,” said Ravena on the eve of the 4 p.m. match.
Rolling along after winning its first 13 games, Ateneo suddenly found itself trying to save its remarkable season.
The Tamaraws were a far cry from a team that ended up 7-7 in the eliminations round, as former Eagles Arvin Tolentino and Hubert Cani shone in last Sunday’s 80-67 win, sending the Final Four to a decider.
“FEU was well-prepared for us last game. Actually, even the game before that, they were, but we just got lucky and we were able to pull off with a win. But them as a team, they’re dogs,” said Ravena, who placed second to La Salle’s Ben Mbala in the MVP race.
“They’re tough and wouldn’t give up without a fight and that’s what made them win. To add to that, they have a great coaching staff as well,” he added.
The Tamaraws shot the ball well, hitting 49 percent on a 31-of-63 shooting, and outscored their foes, 17-7 off turnovers.
Bracing for a big Ateneo fightback, coach Olsen Racela knows FEU needs to elevate its game further to make it to the Finals for the third time in the last four years.
After all, the Eagles still have the upperhand owing to the twice-to-beat advantage that they hardly earned in the double-round eliminations.
“We need more than that on Wednesday to beat Ateneo,” said Racela. “Kung pwede doblehin, triplehin pa ’yung ginawa nila today for us to win against Ateneo.”
Facing his alma matter is no big deal for Racela, who was a part of the Eagles’ champion team in the late 80s. “Wala naman. Nagkataon lang na sila ang kalaban ko sa Final Four,” said Racela.
“Pero doesn’t matter kung sino kalaban ko. I’m just cherishing the experience of going up against different coaches. It just so happened na Ateneo ang kalaban,” he added.
The Tamaraws, who have clashed with the Eagles in three Final Four deciders, are eyeing to become the third No. 4 seed to make it to the Finals. University of Santo Tomas first did the trick in 2013, followed by National University in the next season.
The best-of-three championship will begin on Saturday at the same Pasay venue.
In the women’s division, University of the East seeks to forge a title duel against defending champion NU as it tangles UST at 11 a.m.