Back in UAAP Season 85, Jeff Napa hoped that his NU Bulldogs become part of the ‘Big Boys’ of the league.
National U became a feel-good story that year after copping the bronze medal after losing to University of the Philippines in the Final Four.
With that performance, the expectations became bigger for the Bulldogs in Season 86.
But just like last year, National U fell shot. It lost its final two games of the elimination round to Adamson University by six, 62-68, and by 22 to University of the Philippines by 22, 57-79 to slip to the third seed heading into the Final Four.
Against a sizzling De La Salle University, the Bulldogs became puppies, losing 73-97 on Saturday to bow out as the third placers for the second straight season.
“Disappointed. Kumbaga this is not the way we like to end our season.
“Sabi ko nga sa kanila pasensya na hanggang dito lang ulit inabot natin so yun lang, nag-apologize ako sa kanila. Ito lang yung naging result nitong season na ito,” said Napa.
The Bulldogs encountered some hurdles along the way as Kenshin Padrones and Steve Nash Enriquez missed significant time due to facial injuries.
But the fiery mentor is not one to make excuses, saying that it is their duty to always improve their performance every game.
“Actually hindi naman rason yung mga injuries. Yun nga yung sinabi ko sa kanila nandito kami to compete, to level up our game. So doon kami siguro nagkulang, to level up our game,” said the third-year NU coach.
“Hindi rason na may nainjury whatsoever. Kaya nga sinabi ko sa kanila during our last huddle, we have to compete, ilevel up uli namin kung ano yung talent na binigay sa amin para at least, hindi kami maging failure ulit at saka syempre para rin sa future nila yun.”
During the elimination round, where the Bulldogs finished with a 10-4 record, Napa repeated multiple times that his team dreams of being at the top. And with this season over, shooting for the stars would be their theme for Season 87 anew.
“Maganda? Marami. Kumbaga yun nga hindi naman bawal mangarap eh kaya nga ako nag-apologize sa kanila kasi nga ito lang ulit,” answered Napa when asked what positives will he take to next year.
“Syempre nakita ko sa kanila na kaya pala nila so susubukan ulit, tingnan namin.”