Jarencio believes 2006 can happen all over again
MANILA—If season 74 of the UAAP could be scripted, University of Santo Tomas would’ve fought tooth and nail for authorship and wrote it so that the Tigers would win the most glamorous varsity basketball crown in the country to highlight the school’s celebration of its 400th anniversary.
But alas, reality crept in hard—and crept in early—for the Tigers. Very few people gave UST a second look as a Final Four squad, much less one that could contend for a championship.
One of the few who believed? Coach Pido Jarencio.
“It’s not far-fetched to believe that 2006 could happen all over again,” said the former PBA gunner.
Funny Jarencio should reference 2006. That year, UST won one of the most improbable UAAP titles of all time, rising from the bottom of the pack to upset Ateneo in the championship.
However, there is little to hinge Jarencio’s faith on.
The Tigers were bludgeoned by the Blue Eagles during their two elimination round duels (average Ateneo margin of victory: 19 points), giving Ateneo a huge psychological edge over UST. And then there is that little thing called the twice-to-beat edge that Ateneo owns.
Jarencio, though, is as stubborn as ever.
“We’re not thinking of those losses to Ateneo,” he said, vowing: “We’re a different UST team now. This is the Final Four. We’ll give it our all.”
“I think we were tight when we faced Ateneo,” said playmaker Jeric Fortuna. “We need to be more loose, yet confident and focused. We need to be the aggressors this time. Our season is on the line so expect us to play hard.”
UST has a solid starting unit made up of Karim Abdul, Chris Camus, Kevin Ferrer, Jeric Fortuna and Jeric Teng. The bench should get a boost with the return of Melo Afuang, who is expected back from a gall bladder operation, according to Jarencio.
Camus had been listed as doubtful also because of hamstring problems, but Jarencio said the hardworking forward is a go for today.
Jarencio admits Ateneo will be a handful for UST, and he has a checklist for what the Tigers need to do.
“We need to solve the transition points of Ateneo,” Jarencio said.
He also said it will be important for the Tigers to stop the Eagles top four players: Greg Slaughter, Kiefer Ravena, Nico Salva and Kirk Long.
“The first minute of the match will be crucial,” Jarencio said.
The Tigers were horribly inconsistent in the first round of eliminations, unable to assemble any decent run to wind up with a 3-4 card.
But the Tigers were suddenly on a roll in the second round, notching crucial victories over La Salle and FEU to crash the Final Four.
In fact, UST was in contention for a twice-to-beat edge until late in the second round, when Adamson stopped Ateneo’s winning streak and National U pounced on Abdul’s suspension to hold off the Tigers.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.