MANILA, Philippines—Over and over, Kiefer Ravena kept saying how University of the East could be such a tough team to beat this year.
And after Ateneo had to scrape past UE, 77-72, when the two teams tangled for the first time in the FilOil tournament, even Blue Eagles coach Bo Perasol got to rave about the much-improved Red Warriors Wednesday night.
“I think they have one of the most complete lineups,” Perasol told INQUIRER.net moments after his squad chalked up its fifth win in six games.
“It’s just matter of time before they can get their bearings together and I know they’re going to be stronger when the UAAP comes,” added Perasol. “We have to be prepared for them.”
Indeed, the Red Warriors lived up to their billing as one of the teams to watch out for by giving the ‘five-peat’ UAAP champion, which trailed by as much as eight in the third quarter, all it could handle.
As usual, playmaker Roy Sumang, though he struggled, still ended up with a team-high 18 points, led the way for UE but unlike before where Sumang was just a one-man show, the Red Warriors also got production from their other players.
“I think he is really one of the best point guards in the UAAP and I don’t think anybody can underestimate or cannot be prepared for UE and for Sumang as well,” said Perasol, who added that they (coaching staff) specifically prepared a defensive game plan to contain Sumang.
Perasol also said that he stumbled upon an article that read Ateneo had lost two in a row to UE [last UAAP Season] that eventually had the former PBA mentor using it as extra motivation coming into the game.
“I posed a challenge to them…I told them that I have yet to remember Ateneo losing three games in a row to any team.”
The Blue Eagles, led by Ravena and sharp-shooting Von Pessumal, who came off the bench to deliver 19 big points on five-of-seven shooting from deep, responded to the call.
“Actually before the game sabi ng mga leaders namin sila Kiefer that UE will be a tough team to beat, we all know that the top teams are going to be there UST, NU, La Salle and UE is going to be a contender also in their own little way,” said Pessumal, who has shown so far this preseason that he can be an additional weapon in the backcourt.
Ravena, who scored a game-high 23 points, said, “It was an ugly win but panalo pa rin so we have to take it. Pero we have to keep in mind na hindi pa ‘to UAAP but this is a gauge on where we are right now. During the last game, coach said UAAP teams yung gauge kung nasaan man kami. I think it’s a good sign na after this game we know where we are right now.”