It’s not a surprise for followers of the National University Lady Bulldogs to see Head Coach Pat Aquino being irate at certain points, or becoming furious in an attempt to wake his team up.
That approach does not come as a surprise either for his players, who know the challenges are issued not to break them, but to make them.
The defending UAAP women’s basketball champions have won their fourth straight game after beating Adamson University Sunday. It is their 20th win overall dating back to last season when they went 16-0 to hoist the crown for the first time.
For the second straight game, the Lady Bulldogs were challenged for about a half, as teams were able to match their intensity from the start, but the Sampaloc cagers would go on their patented runs in the second half, which would simply put them in another level.
For Aquino, he does not look at it as the team starting to lose invincibility, or that opposing teams are already figuring it out how to beat them; it is more of a learning curve to help the players gain more maturity and — if pitted in more situations where they are challenged — have the knowledge how to handle adversity.
“I just try to mix up the rookies with the veterans, so that they would be ready in case there is a situation (like that). Sana wala (na) ulit,” Aquino shared.
“There are times na sobra silang relaxed. Mostly, overconfidence yan but napipigilan naman namin. The thing is, they try to make it up kung ano ginagawa nila.”
The mentor also spoke highly of the Lady Bulldogs’ depth, and how role players fill in the gaps whenever there are struggling ones.
“And kapag panget ang laro ng isa, they try to push the other one. It’s more of a team effort. They try to gain confidence from the others,” Aquino added.
With a long road still in store for the reigning titlists, Aquino says challenges like their last two games are vital for their overall growth as a team.
“I have like seven rookies right now, but their maturity comes out when they play basketball. And not just the fourth quarter, but I insert them at certain times. Gambling time siguro, and mas nagiging mature sila. Then the knowledge of the game comes after,” he said.
The scary part? Aquino believes the Lady Bulldogs haven’t peaked yet, and he is looking at his wards to fine-tune their overall game in the days to come.
“Not change but they just need to focus on what they are doing. If they’re focused, they can do anything. As far as I am concerned, hindi pa sila nagpe-peak. I am just worried about the peaking. Hopefully by the second round they are more mature, aggressive.”