Tamaraws try to regroup against FalconsBy Jasmine W. Payo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
FAR EASTERN University hopes to arrest its second-round plunge as it goes for a Final Four berth in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament today at Mall of Asia Arena.
The Tamaraws, who won just one of their last five games after a remarkable 7-0 sweep of the first round, must do it minus suspended center Anthony Hargrove, though, in their 4 p.m. match versus Adamson.
Aside from trying to cope with the absence of Hargrove, FEU coach Nash Racela is also bracing for a Falcons side which has vowed to give a fitting send off to coach Leo Austria, who recently announced that he would step down at the end of the season.
“We just have to be ready especially after that statement by coach Leo,” said Racela. “But I don’t want to pressure the players. We’re still positive that we can reach our goal.”
University of Santo Tomas, tied for fourth with Ateneo at 6-5, also goes for a crucial victory over University of the Philippines at 2 p.m.
“Our next three games are really important for us to position ourselves in the standings,” said UST stalwart Karim Abdul. “To have a favorable position and to gain advantage, we have to continue to work hard and do everything to win those last three games.”
The league rolls into the last two weeks of eliminations with five teams vying for the last three semifinal slots.
Idle National University, which grabbed the solo lead at 9-3, earned the first semifinal berth as recent game results made nine wins sufficient for a team to secure a Final Four slot.
The Tamaraws hope to rebound from a double overtime loss to the Tigers, 78-79, last Sunday in another setback that pushed them down to second at 8-4.
Adding to their woes, Hargrove picked up his second unsportsmanlike foul in the same game, which automatically merits a one-game suspension.
“What’s important now is how we recover again,” said Racela, who is relying on his top backcourt duo of RR Garcia and Terrence Romeo.
Although no longer in contention at 4-8, the Falcons still aim to play spoiler in their last two games.
“We have to finish the season with pride,” said Austria. “I hope we play well in our next two games and make a statement even if we’re out of the Final Four.”
Austria said the school’s “lack of confidence” had prompted him to leave after seven seasons.
If Austria decides to leave, team manager Gilbert Cruz said former PBA players and alumni Kenneth Duremdes or Hector Calma could be tapped to handle the Falcons. Marlou Aquino may also be tapped as an assistant.