By Valerie Uy
UP makes history! Will the Ateneo Blue Eagles repeat? What’s going to happen now with La Salle? Who’s in the Final Four?
The last few days were quite a whirlwind for us UAAP fans. And while we anticipate the upcoming games, we sit down with former Ateneo Queen Eagle and current ABS-CBN Sports Marketing specialist Danica Jose, who gives us the lowdown on the exciting days ahead for UAAP Basketball.
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So what’s happened so far? It’s best to start with the Ateneo–La Salle game last November 11. As we near the end of the UAAP Season, the Final Four picture has started to emerge. By this time, the Ateneo Blue Eagles and the Adamson Soaring Falcons have both secured a berth in the Final Four, and a win by the La Salle Green Archers would have clinched a Final Four spot for the Taft squad.
After a close, tightly contested game, the Blue Eagles emerged victorious, securing the number one spot and a twice-to-beat advantage for the defending champions. This win also secured Adamson’s spot at second place.
For La Salle, the loss meant being tied with the UP Fighting Maroons for the third and fourth spot. Incidentally, the two teams were also slated to meet after the Ateneo–La Salle game. Danica stresses the cruciality of the much talked about game, saying, “The underlying factor of everything was the UP-La Salle game last Wednesday. The winner secures the third place.”
For a closer look at the said game, Danica adds, “This was not the La Salle team that was in a good position to beat Ateneo.” Expected to be a tight game, the UP Fighting Maroons stamped their class all over the Green Archers, securing a solo third spot as they hold a quotient system advantage over La Salle. “After giving Ateneo a scare, there was a lack of intensity during the UP game. UP played their hearts out from the start that kept the Archers at a safe distance.”
The win was historical for UP. After 21 years, the Fighting Maroons are back in the top four teams, and Danica points out that the current players must feel elated to have ended the longest Final Four drought in the UAAP.
For La Salle, the loss sends them at a waiting game for the results of next Sunday’s match between the FEU Tamaraws and the second seeded Adamson.
Moving on to what's at stake next Sunday, Danica begins, “La Salle still has a fighting chance." If FEU loses, they drop to the fifth seed and the Green Archers automatically qualify for the Final Four–setting up another rivalry match against the top seeded Ateneo Blue Eagles. But if FEU wins? “Then basketball fans get a bonus game,” Danica continues. “FEU and La Salle will be tied at fourth–a deciding game will be played on Wednesday and the winner faces Ateneo in the Final Four.”
Now, we know that you've got some fearless forecasts brewing in your heads right now. We also can’t help but ask the former Mythical Five member about her picks for the remainder of the season. Let’s start with this Sunday’s game. “FEU has more to lose, and will be hungrier, but Adamson wants to build momentum. They cannot come into the Final Four with a loss against a peaking UP team,” Danica says. She picks the Adamson Soaring Falcons to win Sunday’s game. “They’re a very disciplined team, and they have their groove already under Coach Franz. You see everybody trying to contribute,” says the former hardcourt star.
And if FEU wins? “La Salle will win the deciding game–whatever happens, I think they are going to the Final Four”, she says.
Danica’s forecast means another rivalry game for Ateneo and La Salle, but while fans are certainly hoping that the Green Archers stretch Ateneo’s twice to beat advantage, she shakes her head. “Ateneo will get it on the first game – they won’t risk going into a do-or-die game with La Salle”, she quips. For Adamson and UP, she predicts a longer road to the Finals. “Adamson and UP will go to two games,” the former Lady Eagle predicts. She picks Adamson to win. “It would be a sight to see a Battle of Katipunan Finals, but maybe next year,” she says with a knowing smile.
The former Queen Eagle forsees a back-to-back title for her alma mater. “But not because I’m Atenean, no,” she exclaims, laughing. She goes on further to explain, “Ateneo was presented with a lot of scenarios throughout the season – from key injuries, suspensions, and Coach Tab being sidelined, and from all the scenarios they had to face, they were always able to deliver.” Danica says that Ateneo’s “next man up” mentality is clearly evident and emerges as a vital advantage heading into the playoffs. “In the absence of key players–whether due to injuries or foul trouble–everyone sticks to the system, and somebody was always ready to step up.”
She believes that the struggles Ateneo faced during the first round were actually good for them, stating, “Everyone expected them to stay undefeated, but they lost their first game and another game after that. The struggles were actually good for them because it gave them more reason to show why they are the defending champions and that they are capable to stay on top.”
Exciting times are ahead for the UAAP which you can catch live on ABS-CBN Sports and Action. But before that, make sure to show your appreciation for the men and women spirits out at the UAAP Cheerdance Competition on November 17, Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Danica Jose was a three time high school champion for Miriam College High School, and a three time UAAP Mythical Five member for the Ateneo Lady Eagles. She is currently a Sports Marketing Specialist for ABS-CBN Sports, and part of the 15 woman pool for Perlas Pilipinas. Follow her on Instagram at @danicaj18.
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