MANILA, Philippines -- De La Salle University head coach Derrick Pumaren believes his team overachieved in UAAP Season 84, despite a painful exit in the Final 4 against the University of the Philippines (UP).
La Salle reached the semifinals as the third seed and pushed the Fighting Maroons to a do-or-die game where they built a double-digit lead in the fourth period. But they fell apart down the stretch, with rookie big man Carl Tamayo leading UP to a 78-74 win and a spot in the finals.
While conceding that they failed to close out a winnable game, Pumaren also noted that the Green Archers pulled off some surprises by making the Final 4 in the first place.
"In all honesty, we're not even being considered to make it to the Final 4 at the start [of the season]," said Pumaren, whose squad was bannered by star big man Justine Baltazar and high-profile transfers like Evan Nelle and Mark Nonoy.
They also added Filipino-American standouts Deschon Winston and Michael Phillips in the offseason, with both players emerging as contributors in their campaign.
"We were not even being counted as a final title contender, but we're able to work our way up," said the coach. "We're able to achieve our immediate goal which is making it to the Final 4."
"I think that we had a successful season, in spite na we fell short, probably 10 minutes short, closing out and making it to the finals. I'm happy with the way they performed," Pumaren added. "Of course, masakit that we could've moved to the next round, but God has other plans probably for this team."
La Salle will only lose Baltazar and Kurt Lojera to graduation at the end of Season 84, and they expect players like Phillips, Nelle, and Nonoy to make a leap after their debut campaigns for the Green Archers. Winston is also eyeing more consistency after an up-and-down season.
What's crucial for Pumaren is that his players developed their chemistry in Season 84, after a truncated preparation period that kept them from truly figuring out how to play with each other.
"We've not really played to our full potential kasi medyo nagkakapaan pa. The chemistry is there but hindi pa 'yung gusto natin na fluid talaga," he explained. "We're looking forward to Season 85."
"Let this [Season 84] be a springboard for us coming into the next season, and hopefully that we can start early practice. We'll be a better team coming to Season 85," Pumaren guaranteed.