National University Bulldogs head coach Dante Alinsunurin could not help but breathe a sigh of relief from four years worth of stress and frustration Sunday afternoon.
For the first time since UAAP Season 76, his Bulldogs conquered the Ateneo Blue Eagles. It was the first time for this crop of Bulldogs to beat the Blue Eagles.
The core of Bryan Bagunas, James Natividad, Kim Malabunga, Madz Gampong, Francis Saura, Ricky Marcos, and Kim Dayandante went from getting swept every game in Season 78 to coming four points away from a championship against Ateneo last year.
Breaking through their curse came with bigger stakes for the Bulldogs as they clinched the top seed in the Season 80 Final Four.
“Sabi ko nga, sa wakas, naka-isa rin kami ulit. Ang tagal naming pinag-aralan, ang tagal naming pinag-handaan talaga itong laro na ito,” said Alinsunurin.
“Sabi ko, ito na ‘yung time talaga na may chance kaming manalo sa kanila. Kasi halos sa ikutan ng first six, medyo lamang kami sa opensa at depensa.“
Having lost the last three UAAP titles to Ateneo in heart-breaking fashion, NU is hoping to relieve their championship glory from four seasons ago.
“Ang nagkulang talaga, kami lang naman eh.
“Ang Ateneo, wala namang ginawang iba eh, parang normal lang na laro nila. Kami, nagkulang sa ginagawa namin. Kaya sabi ko nitong second round, kaya naming talunin talaga ang Ateneo sa progress na ginagawa namin, every time na may game kami ng iba’t ibang team, tumataas naman ang kumpyansa ng mga bata,” shared the enlisted Air Force personnel.