The freight train that is University of the Philippines was dominant in its first five games in the FilOil EcoOil 15th Preseason Cup. But on Sunday, it faced fellow undefeated team National University.
The Fighting Maroons flexed their muscles early for a 17-6 advantage. However, when the Bulldogs made it a one-point game at the onset, it was a sign of things to come.
And ultimately, despite the comeback attempt from the reigning UAAP champions, NU came out as victors, 74-72. It remains the only unbeaten team in Group A while dealing UP its first preseason defeat.
The Bulldogs, however, as their head coach Jeff Napa put it, just counted this win as it is – a win.
“Ano lang naman yon eh, sa ‘min hindi naman ‘yun ganun ka-big deal,” the former NU standout admitted. “We’re just here to compete talaga and subukan namin kung hanggang saan kami.
“Siyempre sila yung defending champions. Kumbaga sila yung barometer ng UAAP. Siyempre lahat ng college teams gustong subukan kung ano yung capabilities ng team na ‘yan. So, we accepted the challenge; and sabi nga, you’ll see, come what may, kung anong magiging result.“
The Bulldogs had their share of good wins in the tournament, including one with another UAAP team in Adamson University, where they also fended off Jerom Lastimosa and Joem Sabandal en route to dealing the Falcons also its first loss.
For Napa, it is all part of the process.
“Yung panalo, andon yung panalo. Pero yung mga learnings kasi, gusto kong matutunan nung mga bata. Kasi a lot of positives and a lot of negatives dito sa game na ito,” he shared. “So yun yung ite-take up namin, ibi-bring up namin during our practices, during our training, para at least malaman namin na kaya pala namin.”
With the gutsy win against Carl Tamayo and the Fighting Maroons for their fourth straight in the tournament, the amiable tactician gave all the credit to his Bulldogs for rising up to the challenge.
“Chinallenge ko sila na basketball lang naman yan, hindi naman wrestling. They played their game and they just enjoyed the game. Unti-unti naka-catch up, and doon yung na-sustain. Kumbaga ano lang eh, I challenged my players to live up to their level of competitiveness,” said the incoming second-year Bulldogs coach.
“Para naman sa kanila yon, yun ang lang ang laging sinasabi ko. Hindi naman para sa kin to, para rin sa inyo to. Para at the end of the day, walang regret, binigay nila yung best nila.”
The entire 2022 Filoil Ecooil Preseason Cup will stream LIVE on Smart Sports Facebook page