As NU prepares for La Salle duel, Napa reminds team lead can be fleeting
At National University (NU), Jeff Napa’s Bulldogs aren’t exactly the most revered hoop squad in the campus. And while their women counterparts, the Lady Bulldogs, are protecting a reality-warping win streak already running into triple digits, all Napa hopes for is that his team avoids that one key loss.
“I hope that doesn’t happen. Knock on wood,” Napa said after the Bulldogs nailed a fourth win in five games—a 58-54 defensive effort against Adamson last Saturday—to seize the lead in the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball wars.
That victory put the Bulldogs on top of the men’s standings and for a while, NU found itself alone at the summit of collegiate basketball. That changed a day later when University of the Philippines (UP) defeated Ateneo to gain a share of the lead.
But Napa was less worried about having to share the lead with UP than he was about how fickle being the top dog of the UAAP can be.
“In the blink of an eye, you can find yourself at the bottom,” he said.
His team faces La Salle in the 11 a.m. match that unspools a four-game schedule at Mall of Asia Arena. And it is a La Salle squad that will take NU very seriously in the encounter, because what else should the Green Archers do?
“How can we take NU lightly when they are a [4-1] team?” La Salle coach Derrick Pumaren said. “[W]e just have to be ready.”
Napa knows what a ready La Salle squad means.
“Another strong team, so we really have to be prepared,” he said. “If [in the last game], I told [the players] we needed a 1,000-percent effort, maybe this time against La Salle, we will need 2,000 or 20,000 [percent] effort because we know they’ll press us all day.”
A win by National U means no matter how the rest of the day plays out, the Bulldogs will have at least a piece of the lead.
UP, barring an upset against a resurgent team, will also look to stay on top as the defending champions gun for a fifth win in six games when they face the University of the East Warriors at 4:30 p.m.
Ateneo, which once won 39 straight games before finally losing a match, has now lost twice in a span of five games this season. The Blue Eagles take on the Adamson Falcons at 1 p.m. while University of Santo Tomas and Far Eastern U engage in a showdown of bottom dwellers at 6:30 p.m.
A win by the Archers will keep them well in the conversation of title favorites.
“[The players] realize … how important it is if we wanna be a top team, if we wanna be champions …to be [always] prepared.”
Napa, meanwhile, wants his team to pause for a breath every now and then.
“We’re a young team. The players still need to be guided. Sometimes, they try to rush everything. But I told them basketball is not easy. We can’t rush wins,” Napa said. INQ
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.