UAAP: Underdog FEU determined to keep Final 4 streak going

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 26 2022 03:07 PM

Without RJ Abarrientos, players like LJ Gonzales are expected to lead the way for the FEU Tamaraws in Season 85. UAAP Media.
Without RJ Abarrientos, players like LJ Gonzales are expected to lead the way for the FEU Tamaraws in Season 85. UAAP Media.

MANILA, Philippines -- The Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws know they have a tough road ahead of them in UAAP Season 85, where they hope to make a ninth consecutive Final 4 appearance.

The Tamaraws currently have the longest active Final 4 streak in the league, having made the semifinals every year since Season 76 in 2013. This run of success includes back-to-back finals appearances in Seasons 77 and 78. They won it all in Season 78.

In Season 84, FEU put together a 7-7 win-loss record to claim the last spot in the semifinals, holding off Adamson University and National University in a tight race to the Final 4.

But making another run to the semis will be difficult in Season 85, as the Tamaraws lost their top scorer and most explosive player, RJ Abarrientos, to the Korean Basketball League (KBL) in the offseason. 

"Life goes on for us," FEU coach Olsen Racela said of Abarrientos' departure. "[This is] another opportunity doon sa mga ibang players to step up and it's their chance to shine naman."

Abarrientos was sensational in his lone season with the Tamaraws, averaging 13.6 points per game along with 4.36 rebounds and 2.57 assists. His performances merited a call-up to the national team, and eventually, a professional contract with the Ulsan Hyundai Mobis. 

With Abarrientos now in the pro ranks, Racela is pinning his hopes on veterans like LJ Gonzales, Royce Alforque, and Xyrus Torres to take more responsibilities. Much is also expected from athletic swingman Cholo Anonuevo, who is finally set to showcase his capabilities this year after sitting out most of Season 84 due to injury. 

"Sa akin, wala naman akong nararamdaman na pressure. Kasi, sila pa rin 'yung kasama ko na naglalaro ngayon, kahit na wala si RJ," Gonzales said recently on "The Game" about their mindset for the upcoming UAAP season.

"Alam kong kaya namin makipagsabayan sa malalakas na team kahit na wala siya. Pero sobrang laking impact ni RJ na nawala sa amin," he added.

Torres, FEU's designated sniper, believes that they will be underdogs in Season 85 -- something that the team has no issue with.

"We're underdogs, always," said Torres. "Ever since, sa Tamaraws, ganoon 'yung tingin -- na underdogs kami. Na maliliit, pero lumalaban until the end. So, 'yun ang dadalhin namin na fighting spirit namin, na underdogs kami."

"'Yung mentality namin na hindi lahat ng laban namin is madali, for sure. Sinasabi nga ni Coach Olsen na possession by possession," he added.

Despite this, their primary goal remains the same: to make the Final 4, then see where they go from there. 

"Kailangan namin trabahuhin para makapasok sa Final 4 at sa finals," said Gonzales. 

"Gawin na lang namin 'yung mga bagay na dapat naming gawin, mako-control namin as a team. Dapat, ganoon kami talaga lagi, as a team, para makapasok kami ulit sa Final 4," added another veteran in Bryan Sajonia.

The Tamaraws will open their UAAP Season 85 campaign on Sunday, October 2 against Ateneo de Manila University. 

Catch replays of UAAP Season 84 games via the UAAP Varsity channel on iWantTFC, available for Premium users outside the Philippines. 

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