Coming into Season 78, hopes aren’t high for the University of Santo Tomas Tigers.
With Mark Alfafara and Romnick Rico leading the squad last year, UST enjoyed their best season since UAAP 73. The Tigers went 11-3 in the elimination round, good for a second seed in the Final Four. But, despite Alafara’s best effort, UST fell to the National University Bulldogs and settled for a third place finish.
To make things worse, both Alfafara and Rico exhausted their playing years, leaving UST with two huge holes in their lineup.
This season, the Tigers will need immediate contributions from their rookies – former NCAA Junior’s MVP Jomaru Amagan, and Tyrone Carodan.
Both rookies, however, struggled in their trial-by-fire first meeting against the defending champions, Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles.
Although head coach Odjie Mamon still wants to make a Finals run even if they are rebuilding, he says that the UST administration have given them a more achievable goal.
“Siyempre ako, gusto ko maglaro ng Finals. Pero ang instruction lang samin is to finish better than La Salle,” Mamon revealed.
UST are currently entrenched in a heated race for the General Championship with the Taft-based squad. As of press time, UST are clinging to a slim two-point lead, 161-159. Any sport in which UST can get the jump on La Salle in the final standings will definitely help.
“It’s all a part of UST’s overall plan. Isa siya sa mga goal na madali naming maabot,” Mamon added. “Malaking factor talaga na wala na si Alfafara (kaya siguro ganoon).”
Despite the administration’s lowered expectations, Mamon still wants to squeeze all the improvement he can get out of his wards.
“This is just game one, we still have 13 to go,” Mamon expressed. “I need a scorer on the team but those that I expected to step up, let me down today. Pero ok lang ‘yun. Sabi ko nga, this is just the first game.”
UST next faces the 0-1 UP Maroons on Sunday, February 7 8 a.m. at the FilOil Flying V Centre.