Unlike her first four Finals appearances, this one holds something special for National University Lady Bulldog Jack Animam.
Entering the UAAP Season 81 Women’s Basketball Finals, the match-up between the Lady Bulldogs and the Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws is headlined between two titans. On one end stands the 6-foot-2 Jack Animam, while on the other, 6-foot-4 Clare Castro.
But just like their elimination round outings, Animam and the Lady Bulldogs came out on top, 71-59, to move just a win away from winning their fifth straight tiara.
“Yun ang focus namin: we have to stop Clare Castro. I’m just lucky I have two bigs with me, Rhena [Itesi] and Jack,” expressed decorated NU head coach Patrick Aquino.
“They’re really big factors in the game.”
Animam, the UAAP Season 80 Most Valuable Player, had 19 points to go along with 12 rebounds, five assists, and five steals.
Moreover, she helped stifle Castro, who had just eight points entering the final frame. She eventually ended up with 15 points.
But seeing Castro downcast on the sidelines, Animam could not help but be saddened for her friend.
“Siyempre parang ang hirap i-explain. Friend ko siya. Sino ba naman yung matutuwa kapag makikita mong sad ang friend mo?” admitted the 20-year-old about the 21-year-old Lady Tamaraw.
Still, Animam had a job to do. And she knows that once the final buzzer sounds, all will be well between them.
“We play for different schools, kailangan namin i-accept ang fact na ‘yun.
“After naman this game, off the court nandoon pa rin ang closeness namin. Hindi namin pinag-uusapan ang game ‘pag off the court,” disclosed the Perlas Pilipinas stalwart.
As a father-figure to women’s cagers, Aquino hopes that this series will only help Castro moving forward.
“Clare has improved so much and I think she deserves to be here – she worked hard for this,” admitted Perlas Pilipinas’ chief tactician.
“Sabi ko nga sana she can continue it for the RP team.”