Eleven games into the UAAP Season 79 Women’s Basketball Tournament, and the University of the East Lady Warriors are within touching distance of the second seed in the potential step-ladder scenario in the Final Four.
With the National University Lady Bulldogs in dominant form, second place is the next best reward at the end of the elimination round. A late push for second place was granted to UE after they defeated the Ateneo de Manila University, and after the Far Eastern University upset De La Salle University.
UE’s 50-30 win against Ateneo last October 26, 2016, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City hastened the latter’s elimination from Final Four contention and brought the former closer to second place.
Ateneo had actually eliminated UE in the Season 78’s post-season step-ladder and the significance of that outcome wasn’t lost on Lady Warriors veteran Nicole Mendina.
Mendina led the Lady Warriors in that win with 15 points. She shared, “Ginawa naming motivation yung pagkatalo namin noon kaya ngayon naging preparation namin talaga nag-focus kami sa defense kasi yun talaga yung kulang namin last year eh.”
The win was the Recto school’s third in a row after they suffered a 53-92 loss at the hands of the National University last October 12, 2016 at the FilOil Flying V Arena in San Juan City. Instead of allowing the loss to ruin their campaign, the Mendina and her teammates proved it was the making of them.
“Yung pagkatalo namin sa NU, isa din yun sa ginawa naming motivation kasi yung laro namin noon hindi kami yun eh. Nagbago na yung tingin sa amin ng mga tao kasi dati diba nasa pinakababa kami tapos ngayon nasa taas kami, biglang bumalik yung dati.
“Nung pagkatalo namin sa NU yung morale namin bumaba. Ginawa naming motivation yan para umangat pa din,” narrated the fifth-year student.
Mendina admitted that Lady Warriors mentor Aileen Lebornio had made herself heard in the dugout after that game, as she said that the UE that played wasn’t the team she had formed nor the one all of them worked hard to for.
The Bicolana added, “Sobrang na-disappoint doon si coach sa amin kasi yung defense na talagang pinaghandaan namin buong year, nawala nung sa NU. Masyado kaming nag-relax, nagkampante kami kasi diba nung first round four points lang. Tumatak sa isip namin na kaya namin yun tapos bumaliktad yung laro.”
Communication and faith in their post players are what Mendina believes have been keys to UE’s success so far. Up next for UE is a date with La Salle on November 5, 2016, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. A win would give the victors one foot through the door of the second seed.
“Paghahandaan po talaga namin yung La Salle. Ayaw namin talaga magpatalo sa La Salle. Kasi nung first round, two points lang [ang talo namin].
“Hindi kami magiging kampante na matatalo namin (sila), basta paghahandaan talaga namin. Ayaw na ayaw namin matalo sa La Salle,” stated the Music, Arts, PE, and Health student.
Nevertheless, the Lady Warriors eye something bigger than just second place at the end of the elimination round. “Actually yung target namin is mag-champion pero one step at a time. La Salle muna para maging second place kami. Tsaka na yung NU para sa championship.”