The UAAP world is incredibly small, so it did not take long for Arvin Tolentino and Hubert Cani to cross paths with their former team in high stakes situations.
The pair, who were booted out of Ateneo De Manila University due to not making Ateneo’s grade quota, found home in the Blue Eagles’ perennial rivals, the Far Eastern University Tamaraws.
In their first season in green and gold, Tolentino and Cani failed to lead FEU to a win over Ateneo in the elimination round. As the Tamaraws struggled, the Blue Eagles flourished.
Still, both squads found themselves in familiar territory: facing off in the Final Four.
There, the former Blue Eagles made the most of their opportunity and proved themselves in the eyes of their former teammates.
The six-foot-five Tolentino fired in 13 points, while the 5-foot-11 Cani added 11, to help FEU climb out of a twice-to-beat disadvantage, 80-67, and force a do-or-die encounter on Wednesday.
However, the pair asserted any feelings of nostalgia or regret for what could have been with Ateneo are already gone. They have faced the Blue Eagles already several times before Sunday’s encounter.
And more than anything, they wanted to repay FEU’s trust and warm reception.
“Nasanay na rin ako kasi nakalaban ko na sila sa mga tournament noong summer leagues, dito sa UAAP, twice na,” Tolentino admitted. “Na-adapt ko na ‘yung mentality and spirit namin dito sa FEU. Wala na sa isip ko na sayang, wala na ako doon [Ateneo] kasi tinanggap ako nang buong-buo ng FEU. Wala na sa akin na former team ko sila.
“Natanggal na dahil sa dalawang games namin noong elims.”
Cani, right off the bat, knew that Ateneo presented a tough challenge. Beating them twice will require incredible focus.
“‘Yung pinanggalingan namin na school, sobrang hirap nilang talunin. Kinailangan lang namin bawasan ‘yung turnovers and mas maging disiplinado pa kami sa kanila,” said Cani. “Siyempre, masarap manalo. Pero, sabi nga ni coach Olsen [Racela], kailangan ng next play mentality.
“So tapos na ‘tong game na ‘to. Move on na kami to Wednesday.”