After taking care of Final Four bid, UP sets focus on twice-to-beat edge
University of the Philippines took its target a step farther after sealing a spot in the Final Four. The Maroons are now chasing a twice-to-beat incentive in the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball tournament.
And there’s only one way they can achieve that: Keep pounding.
“Coach Gold reminds his players … ‘keep pounding.’ All throughout the game he was reminding the players that the home run plays won’t be captured with just one pound,” said UP assistant Christian Luanzon.
“We’re just taking this one game and practice at a time. We know what’s at stake and last game it clinched our final four spot. Now, we have another goal,” Luanzon added.
The Maroons are all in when it comes to the next goal in their to-do list, a commitment forged since early this year.
“They’ve been committed since Jan. 15. That’s when we started training after finishing on Dec. 19 last year, so it was just pretty much a month off then we had training and preseason tournaments,” Luanzon recalled.
“From a commitment standpoint, they’re there. They’re always reminded that it’s more than the attendance but also the mental part in execution on both ends. Whether it’s our sets on offense or defense, it requires a high level of focus for these players and that’s the commitment they’re showing on the floor to execute them.”
On Saturday, the Maroons found another player to help sustain that pounding—and achieve their goal.
Aldous Torculas came up with a career-high 13 points while adding five rebounds and two steals to provide the extra spark in the Maroons’ 81-64 victory over the Far Eastern U Tamaraws at Smart Araneta Coliseum that pushed UP closer to gaining playoff protection in the semifinals.
“I feel blessed and actually, I’m just being patient and I’m just doing my role in helping the team so I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing, one game at a time,” said the second-year forward.
“I didn’t think of it much; I’m just focused on our goal and the team and of course, it boosts our confidence and we’ll be bringing that confidence every game.”
UP led only by seven at halftime against the Tamaraws but opened the third quarter with a 14-7 run that doubled the gap and sent FEU out of the running for a Final Four berth.
The Maroons, meanwhile, took their 10th win in 12 games and remained on top of the standings, with National U breathing down their necks.
The Bulldogs were playing at press time.
“The good thing about our situation is, destiny’s still in our hands so we’ll take care of business in the next two games and the twice-to-beat [advantage] is obviously, no question, the focus,” Luanzon said.
Francis Lopez finished 12 points and nine boards, while Harold Alarcon also poured in 11 points of his own.
Graduating guard LJay Gonzales led FEU with a game-high 20 points. Jorick Bautista scattered 17 and five rebounds.