NU's Angelo Alolino (4) drives to the basket against Ateneo. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – National University (NU) head coach Eric Altamirano expressed his pride in his players after the Bulldogs held off the Ateneo Blue Eagles, 64-60, in their UAAP men's basketball tournament game last Saturday.
Altamirano said their pair of games against La Salle and Ateneo last week were a "test of character" for his team. While the Bulldogs lost to the Green Archers, they bounced back strongly against the Blue Eagles.
"I am very proud of our boys, especially 'yung bench namin," said Altamirano. "I think the team really showed character today."
"Even when we were missing our free throws, hindi sila nawalan ng focus," the coach said of his players. "They know it's still a defensive game, so if we missed our free throws, we need to make stops sa kabila para naman hindi sila makahabol."
"It boiled down to the character ng team, never giving up and closing that game."
Altamirano also said his team's identity was clearly seen against the Blue Eagles.
"'Yung identity ng team namin, it's not really relying on one person, but really more of a collective effort," he said. "So ngayon, pinakita ng team 'yun na nag-step up 'yung mga bench players namin…. And we really committed to playing our team defense against Ateneo."
He reserved praise for their back-up guards, including Paolo Javelona and Rev Diputado, who stepped up their game after starting guard Gelo Alolino struggled and earned crunch time minutes.
"There will be games talaga that he (Alolino) will struggle. Ang maganda lang is meron siyang Rev Diputado who can back him up," Altamirano said.
Of playing Diputado and Javelona in crunch time, Altamirano said: "We felt that in the end, we needed to focus more on our defense talaga, making sure we stopped Kiefer (Ravena), and then we wanted to pressure the point guard."
"Noong last few minutes, they (Javelona and Diputado) were really doing a good job, and they were controlling the tempo of the game," he added. "So we thought of keeping them at the end of the game."