Ateneo De Manila University, bent on facing De La Salle University in the finals, takes on defending champion Far Eastern University (FEU) at 4 p.m. today in the other semifinals match of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 79 men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Armed with a twice-to-beat advantage, the Blue Eagles are upbeat after a weeklong preparation.
“Definitely, we are expecting a war with FEU. It is important that we have the twice-to-beat advantage knowing that we have a strong opponent ahead of us,” Ateneo assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga told The Manila Times.
Though they beat the reigning champions twice in the elimination round, Arespacochaga reminds his players not to be overconfident.
“We already talked about it telling the players to set aside the past, even our two wins in the elimination round. We don’t like to fall in the trap and become relaxed. We have to think of the upcoming game. We need to give our best and stay focused.”
The Blue Eagles ended the elimination round with a 10-4 win-loss record to secure the No. 2 spot and the twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four.
Ateneo will bank on the prowess of Thirdy Ravena, Tony Asistio, Mike Nieto, Adrian Wong, Isaac Go and Rafael Verano in taming the Tamaraws. A victory by the Blue Eagles will book them a duel against archrival Green Archers. The last time La Salle and Ateneo fought in the finals was in 2011.
But FEU coach Nash Racela said his wards are determined to get in the way. The Tamaraws finished the elimination round at No.3 with a 9-5 record.
The Tamaraws will be depending on Prince Orizu, Richard Escoto, Axel Inigo, Raymar Jose, Wendel Comboy and Jose Trinidad in their battle against the Blue Eagles.
La Salle booked a finals berth after surviving Adamson University, 69-64, on Wednesday at the same venue.
JOSEF T. RAMOS