Far Eastern University (FEU) head coach Olsen Racela and the Tamaraws are keen to finish off the Ateneo De Manila University Blue Eagles in the winner-take-all Final Four game at 4 p.m. today in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 80 men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
“What we only achieved was to take away the twice-to-beat advantage of Ateneo. So, we’re looking forward to Wednesday’s game and see what we can do to stop a strong team like Ateneo,” said the former Philippine Basketball Association stalwart Racela.
Fourth seed FEU forged a do-or-die match for the last finals slot with an 80-67 upset of top seed Ateneo under Tab Baldwin last Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.
Interestingly, the Tamaraws also forced a knockout game in the semifinals against Ateneo last season only to falter in an overtime thriller, 68-69.
But Racela knows that there is still a lot of work to do for the Morayta-based cagers to make their comeback to the championship round since 2015.
“Just think about one game. Don’t think about the magnitude of the game. Just focus on what we need to focus on and play the whole 40 minutes against Ateneo,” said Racela.
But for Baldwin, what matters most is that his wards regain their confidence.
“We’re getting back on in terms of looking for confidence. So, it’s really about the coaching staff giving the players a message that they can look at and say ‘Yes, we can do that’ then go out there doing it,” said Baldwin.
In the first game of their semifinals pairing, the Eagles were outgunned by the Tamaraws in overall field goals (36 percent-49 percent) and in the three-point area (31 percent-42 percent).
Baldwin said they must reclaim the style that led them to a 13-game winning run in the elimination round before tasting their first losing skid this season.
“We just have to play a lot better and put much attention on what we’re capable of. We have to get back on understanding what we do well, sort of rediscover who we are. It’s there. There’s no question that it’s still there,” said the ex-Gilas Pilipinas coach.
FEU main man Ron Dennison and Ateneo top gun Thirdy Ravena, meanwhile, are also eager to carry the fight for their respective teams.
Dennison aspires to take a last shot at the championship trophy before he graduates.
“I don’t want to end my UAAP career losing this game because I really want to play in the finals,” said the veteran forward, who won a championship with FEU two years ago.
Meanwhile, Ravena believes that it all boils down to preparing hard for battle.
We didn’t work this hard just to lose in the Final Four so we’re going to put up a fight on Wednesday. Work on preparation because when you prepare well for the team you’re about to face you’re going to be mentally focused and you’re body is going to be ready for anything that’s going to happen and so is your mind. So, I guess it’s just that—prepare.”