Aris Dimaunahan took the blame after National University’s eight-peat bid in the UAAP Season 86 Women’s Basketball Tournament was foiled last Wednesday.
The Lady Bulldogs, despite only losing one game in the elimination round and breezed past the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the semis, seemed to still have an aura of invincibility heading into the finals.
Though losing Game One, 72-76, to the UST Growling Tigresses, the Lady Bulldogs managed to hack out a 72-70 win in the next game to set up a rubber match.
However, NU lost 69-71 in game three of the finals to UST despite leading as much as 15 points in the contest.
“That is on me,” said Dimaunahan. “I could have put them in a better position unlike what happened today, yung result naging ganon.
“We should be proud of their efforts, the entire year, they’ve been practicing every day knowing that it’s a daily basis talaga, pukpukan kami sa practice para dito sa moment na ito,” the former interim Blackwater head coach furthered.
“I think the ladies deserved the win but I, myself, let it slip away. No questions about their efforts and commitment, it’s just that maybe hindi ko sila nalagay sa tamang position to get this championship today. So they should be proud of all their effort and their contribution on the team for the entire year.”
When the final buzzer sounded to call time on not only the rubber match but also NU’s era of dominance, Dimaunahan gave the Lady Bulldogs an emotional speech telling them to hold their heads high for all of their hard work in Season 86.
It was the first time NU lost in the finals since Season 76. Back then, La Salle defeated it in three games to win the championship. Losing has not been in the vocabulary of the Lady Bulldogs for such a long time and seeing them in the endgame was painful to watch.
“Somebody has to win and somebody has to learn and today, we’re in the learning stage. Probably, we’ll gonna use that as a motivation, as a springboard in moving forward for the next season.”
Come Season 87, NU will fulfill the role of the hunter rather than the hunted. The Lady Bulldogs will be in unfamiliar territory as they try to regain the championship that they relinquished to the Growling Tigresses.
Dimaunahan himself is eager to bounce back and he is already looking forward to the challenges that await him and NU.
“Sabi ko nga, kung pwede lang bukas na start yung next season, maganda. Pero hindi naman ganon yung scheduling natin,” he said.
“Again, not getting the win is all part of the sport, it’s also a part of life and the question is, what do we do next after not getting the result that we want? This loss won’t define us, what would we do after this one?” he continued.
“We will make the adjustments that we need for them to be better players, to be better persons. That is most important.”