National University is entering the Final Four of the UAAP Season 86 Men’s Basketball Tournament in bad shape.
The Bulldogs finished the elimination round with back-to-back losses: a 62-68 defeat to the Adamson Soaring Falcons last November 15; and a 57-79 drubbing by top seed University of the Philippines last Sunday.
It was a disappointing way to finish the elimination round. Before both losses, NU was on track to claim the twice-to-beat advantage, which would have been a big help for its goal to return to the finals for the first time since Season 77.
Alas, that ship has sailed.
“Siyempre very frustrating dahil nga yung last two stretch ng game namin hindi favorable for us. It’s my fault, my responsibility lahat. I take yung responsibility doon. We need to move forward and need to prepare against La Salle on Saturday,” said third-year Bulldogs coach Jeff Napa.
“Yun yung something to look forward, consolation para sa amin. Hopefully, ma-turn things around. Kahit papaano malaking obstacle. Hopefully, maging healthy na talaga yung mga players ko para atleast magiging maganda talaga yung laban,” the NU lifer cotinued.
“Kase the result, madali na yang result eh. Yun nga, prep talk ko sa kanila, ‘Do the impossible, team’, and we’ll see kung ano ang magiging result on Saturday.”
If there was one consolation for NU in its 22-point loss to UP, it was that its main point guard Steve Nash Enriquez returned after almost a month out of action due to a dislocated jaw.
The former Bullpup played for 11:23 minutes. This meant that Napa will have a full 16-man lineup against the Green Archers after being ravaged by injuries in his team’s past few games.
The last time La Salle and NU faced off in the Final Four was back in Season 64.
The three-time UAAP high school boys’ champion mentor represented the Bulldogs back then as a player.
Unfortunately, Green Archers legend Renren Ritualo torched him and his teammates back then.
Beating La Salle twice to reach the finals this year will be an uphill task for NU, but the latter will do everything it can to pull it off.
“Actually si Nash, hindi pa gaanong [okay], kita niyo naman medyo maga pa yung pisngi. Pero he’ll try his best like kase kahit papaano meron pa ring impact yon. He dwelt naman kung ano yung nangyari sa amin ‘non,” he said.
“Ayoko rin naman sisihin kung ano man yung nangyari sa amin talaga. It all goes down parin talaga kung ano yung performance namin sa game pa rin. Medyo hindi maganda yung performance namin coming to the end of second round,” he opined.
“So, we’ll see, entering the Final Four on Saturday, hopefully, we turn things around, we do the impossible things na at least mas maganda yung approach namin on Saturday.”