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What’s in playing at the Big Dome? Everything for Danica Jose

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The playoff game against UST last Wednesday was the last time Danica Jose will enter the Blue Eagle Gym as a member of the Ateneo Lady Eagles women’s basketball team, no matter what result.

But failing to advance to the Final Four would have prevented Jose from getting a shot at playing on a bigger stage, and she didn’t want her collegiate basketball career to end just yet.

The Lady Eagles edged the Tigresses, 64-53, and paved the way for Ateneo to enter the semi-finals and play at the Araneta Coliseum.

It’s a bigger, more prestigious venue — more seats, a more comfortable atmosphere, brighter lights. If the Big Dome’s walls could speak, it would have talked about the venue’s colorful history.

Popularly known as the mecca of Philippine sports and entertainment, the Araneta Coliseum always holds a special meaning for sports enthusiasts.

Still, even if Jose is the daughter of former PBA pro Bobby Jose, she admits to not having envisioned the scene to come her way.

“Hindi ko na-imagine yun when I was a kid. I really played for fun, not yet the whole commitment thing and all,” the younger Jose said, sharing how his father would sometimes take her to the venues during the older Jose’s pro career.

“But he saw I had the passion for it and tuloy-tuloy na daw yan. I made the national team and I knew in college maraming (opportunities) so sineryoso ko na,” she added.

But as the surreal opportunity to play in a historic venue finally arrived, Jose was nothing short of impressive in the team’s do-or-die game against UE last Saturday, making a moment for herself.

“I have to play like it is my last game and I didn’t want to end my last playing year not being in the finals. That is the goal,” she said.

Jose elevated her game and dominated the post on her way to 17 points on 6-for-9 shooting, 8 rebounds, and 4 blocks. After the final buzzer sounded, the entire team rushed to centercourt to celebrate the resounding win.

Ateneo last made the playoffs in Season 75 when Jose was in her second year. The team fell a win short of advancing last year, and this season was a roller-coaster ride for the team.

Once on the brink of elimination, the Lady Eagles showed character and have won four of their last five games to forge a match-up against De La Salle next week.

“Sobrang grateful namin. We did not expect to come this far given na after the first round sobrang dehado na kami. Nagtrabaho kami and we know sa Final Four it is not going to be an easy kind of competition and we were ready for that mentally.”

The team walked through the halls of the Big Dome on their way out, the same routine they always do after each game — except this time, it meant a little more special.

“When I entered Araneta, it felt great na we are playing in a bigger stage. And it’s the competition itself. We are in the Final Four and you don’t take things for granted. I was thankful to have an opportunity to play here and end my career in a better way than last year,” Jose said.

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