A month after their thrilling UAAP championship showdown, Ateneo and University of Santo Tomas cross paths again in the Philippine Collegiate Champions League Thursday at Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan.
But this time, the Blue Eagles face the Tigers minus the coach that steered them to five straight crowns in their 4 p.m. duel at the start of the round-robin Final Four.
Three-time NCAA titlist San Beda Red Lions—an outright semifinalist like the Blue Eagles—takes on Cebu champion Southwes-tern University in the first game at 2 p.m.
The top two teams at the end of the round will clash in a best-of-three championship series.
Because the Eagles have not named a coach to replace Norman Black, Ateneo team manager Paolo Trillo said assistant coach Gabby Severino will call the shots.
Kiefer Ravena, Nico Salva and Greg Slaughter spearhead the Eagles’ charge anew against the Tigers, whom they swept in this season’s UAAP finals.
The Tigers, though, hope to sustain their momentum after a couple of big wins in the “Sweet 16” round.
“We’re just thinking positive,” said UST coach Pido Jarencio. “We have no worries, no pressure. We actually didn’t expect to reach the Final Four.”
The Tigers claimed the last Final Four berth in the Metro Manila bracket of the season-ending nationwide tournament after dumping Adamson, 88-64, behind the strong second-half efforts of Aljon Mariano, Jeric Teng, Karim Abdul and Kevin Ferrer.
Southwestern also aims to build on their run in the Southern Islands leg, which they ruled after disposing of powerhouse University of Visayas, 82-78.
Cameroonian Benoit Mbala and Monbert Arong powered the Cobras in the tight duel, while Joseph Nalos and Benito Ortuyo also came through with clutch shots for the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (Cesafi) champions.