Ateneo sets sights on F4

Games Today:
(Araneta Coliseum)
2 p.m. Ateneo vs. NU
4 p.m. FEU vs. La Salle

Ateneo de Manila University tries to secure at least a playoff for a Final Four spot while Far Eastern University (FEU) hopes to stop the bleeding in a crucial double-header in Season 81 University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball tournament on Saturday at the Araneta Coliseum.

The league-leading Blue Eagles go for the win against host National University (NU) in their 2 p.m. and move closer to a semifinal spot while the Tamaraws try to end a three-game slide against De La Salle University in the main game at 4 p.m.

FEU has yet to win in the second round after finishing the first phase of elimination with a 5-2 win-loss card.

The Tamaraws are coming off an 82-95 loss to University of the Philippines (UP), the team they are now sharing the fourth position with 5-5 mark.

Arvin Tolentino returns to FEU roster after a two-game suspension while starting center Prince Orizu remains doubtful and Tamaraws head coach Olsen Racela hopes they can get over the hump and keep their season back on track.

“Before the Xs and Os, it’s about the mindset of the players and their morale. We fought hard against UP and stuck to the game plan. That’s what we need to bring on Saturday because it’s a crucial game for us,” said Racela.

Without Tolentino and Orizu, FEU managed to keep within striking distance against the Fighting Maroons but Paul Desiderio, Bright Akhuetie and Juan Gomez de Liaño finished off the Tamaraws in the final quarter.

The Green Archers, currently at solo third with 5-4 slate, are coming off a 50-57 loss to Adamson last Saturday and the one-week break makes La Salle fresher as it seeks to avenge its 61-68 loss to the FEU in the first round.

Head coach Louie Gonzalez said his wards have moved on from that loss and vow to come up better as they try to solidify their hold of the No. 3 spot.

Meanwhile, Ateneo tries to pull away from the field and moves nearer to the twice-to-beat incentive in the Final Four stage with a win against the Bulldogs, who are 3-6 are still in the race for a semifinals berth.

The Blue Eagles demolished University of the East in their last game, 90-70, with assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga shrugging off the idea that the defending champions are peaking at the right moment.

“We’re not really looking at that. We’re looking to play our best every game. That’s one of the things that coach Tab (Baldwin) emphasizes,” said Arespacochaga.

“We want to give our best every time. That’s the way we look at things now.”

NU revived its Final Four bid with a 69-61 win over University of Santo Tomas but the Bulldogs can’t afford to lose a couple of games anymore as such would put them out of the Final Four picture.

Rookie Dave Ildefonso led NU’s win over the Growling Tigers with 16 points while Troy Rike added 13.

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