Ateneo eyes first Final Four slot; UST, La salle dispute solo fourth
MANILA—Coach Norman Black wants Ateneo to stay close to its best form as the Blue Eagles shoot for the first Final Four berth in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament Thursday.
Going for their 10th straight win, the Eagles remain wary even if the defending champions are heavily favored against the University of the East at 1 p.m. at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“The challenge is to try to be as consistent as possible,” said Black. “As the season goes on, your attention or concentration—as far as what we’re trying to accomplish—wanes a little bit. I don’t want to wait until we get to the Final Four to be at the peak of our game. I think we should try to stay as close to the peak right now in the elimination round.”
The Warriors, near bottom at 2-7, stunned La Salle, 74-69, last Saturday.
La Salle, though, hopes to recover from that setback as the Green Archers dispute solo fourth with the University of Santo Tomas in the second game at 3 p.m.
“We certainly cannot let down our guard against UE,” said Black. “They (Warriors) were on a 2-2-1 zone almost the entire game and it was very effective against the La Salle team and they forced a lot of turnovers.”
If the Eagles pick up another victory, their bid for an elimination sweep, which comes with an outright Finals slot, also stays alive.
But Black said his three-time champions—bannered by Nico Salva, Kirk Long and rookie stars Kiefer Ravena and Greg Slaughter—are only focused on the game at hand.
“We’re not giving it (sweep) a thought,” said Black. “The only time I’ll give it a thought is if we’re 13-0.”
“We continue to adjust as the games go on,” said coach Jerry Codiñera of his rebuilding Warriors.”
The Archers also have their own concerns as they try to snap a two-game skid minus veteran center Yutien Andrada, who’s out for the rest of the season due to an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury.