FEU head coach Nash Racela. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
After four quarters of pulse-pounding basketball, the Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws emerged victors over rival University of the East Red Warriors (UE), 92-81. The score wasn’t indicative of how the game was played where UE played near-perfect ball from the five-minute mark of the first quarter all the way until the last five minutes of the game. The Tamaraws found their verve late in the match to take the huge win to go to 4-1 and the top of the UAAP standings at least for a couple of days (until UST, their first-round conqueror returns to the hardcourt on Saturday against a dangerous Ateneo team).
We spoke to third-year FEU coach Nash Racela and what follows is a very candid conversation.
Rick: Did this game against UE remind you of that match against UST in the flow except this time your team finished strong?
Racela: In some ways, yes. Yes, because it was a very hard game for us. But looking at the effort of our players, errors aside, they weren’t lacking per se. You have to give a lot of credit to UE that was playing well on both ends. Coach Derrick (Pumaren) has really prepared that team quite well. If (Renz) Palma can get his game going they will be even harder to stop. Luckily for us, nag-click kami nung fourth quarter and that began when we started making stops. We didn’t give UE opportunities to do what they wanted.
Rick: How valuable is that veteran experience for you?
Racela: (laughing) It is supposed to be big but we didn’t play like veterans early in the game as we committed a lot of turnovers. You can say nakipagsabayan kami sa pace na gusto ng UE. Hindi ba dapat kami nagse-set ng tone? When we settled down, we executed better, much better. I think maturity is the key here. Sometimes though in a season, you have to mature quickly because it is over before you know it. Next year you can be sure other teams will get better like Ateneo, La Salle and UE. Adamson too is quite a team. Ngayon pa lang puro mga bata pero grabe lumaban. They are a much better team than what their record states.
Rick: Having said that, do you think that maturity and mental strength is what FEU needs to end its championship drought? The team does have the talent, the bench and depth to make a run at a title.
Racela: Well, it is too early to be looking at the championship although it is certainly a goal. We are working on mental toughness. These games against UP, UST and UE ang makaktulong sa pagbigay niyan. I hope the lessons aren’t lost on them.
Rick: The team you have right now, you stand to lose a lot of them after the season. Is there a sense of urgency to win it?
Racela: We don’t want to put pressure on anyone but yes, you’re right. Hindi naman kami magde-deny na that is our goal. All teams naman. I don’t think anyone joins and parang, “we just want to win a couple of games." You try to win as much as you can and go far in the tournament.
This is the last year for many of our key players in Mac Belo, Mike Tolomia, Roger Pogoy, and Francis Tamsi. Next year, we will have a very young team. Hopefully, we can bet back to the finals and we’ll go for it. However, one game at a time muna. You hear us coaches say that all the time but it is true. You have to look ahead but not too far ahead. There are games to be played and the idea is to win them one at a time. You have short-term and long-term goals. But in a short season like the UAAP, every game you play is big.
Rick: You mentioned Alfrancis Tamsi. Last year niya?
Racela: Tamsi is only in his second year with the team as he is a transferee from Leyte. But it is also his last year with us.
Rick: Just an observation, he started out well then sort of tapered off last season. Then this year, he has come off the bench the last two matches and given the team a lift. Talk about him especially his impact in the last win.
Racela: Getting minutes is difficult because of the players ahead of him. But as we saw in the last two games, he gave us a lot of quality. If he could provide that stability and lagi siyang ready to contribute, he will be a big factor this year for us. We hope of course.
Rick: Good luck the rest of the way, coach.
Racela: Thanks. I am sure we will need it.
(For more sports coverage of the UAAP, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.)
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.