MANILA, Philippines -- De La Salle University team captain Andrei Caracut was proud of how the Green Archers played against Ateneo de Manila University on Sunday, even if they came up short against the defending champions.
The Green Archers refused to go down easily despite falling behind by double-digits in the fourth quarter, and the Blue Eagles settled for a 77-69 triumph that clinched them a Final 4 berth in UAAP Season 82.
Caracut, who had 11 points, 4 rebounds and 4 steals, noted that the Green Archers played much better this time around than they did in the first round.
"Kasi Ateneo, back-to-back champions sila eh, mahirap talaga talunin. Ngayon, 10-0 na sila," he pointed out. "Kailangan talaga, 'pag tatalunin mo sila, halos perfect game."
"Ang maganda naman na nakita ko sa team namin kanina, lumalaban," he added. "Kailangan lang namin siguro 'yung little things, siguro focus pa. Pero masaya ko na lumaban kami."
"Nakita ko 'yung improvement."
The Blue Eagles routed them, 81-69, when they played for the first time this year in what was La Salle's season opener. On Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena, a more confident La Salle squad kept in step with the defending champions, before big shots by Adrian Wong and Ange Kouame put them away in the end game.
Caracut could only lament their missed free throws and poor shooting, while noting that they did a good job of limiting Ateneo's efficiency.
"Ilang percent lang ata sila, 34?" he said. "Pero 'yung offense din namin, medyo kalat."
"Yung turnovers din, medyo tentative din kami kanina. Pero sa second half, four turnovers lang ata kami, so kaya dumikit din kami. Pero okay naman. Okay naman 'yung team. 'Yung improvement, andoon eh," he added.
Despite the loss, the Green Archers remain very much in the hunt for a Final 4 spot with their 4-5 win-loss record. As it stands, they are tied with Far Eastern University for a share of fourth place.
Yet Caracut, who is in his final season with La Salle, is not even looking at the Final 4 picture at the moment.
"Wala, hindi ko na iniisip 'yun eh. Ang iniisip ko, next game," he explained.
"Ilang games na lang 'to, sabi ko sa kanila. Huwag kayong mag-alala, basta mag-enjoy lang tayo," he added. "Kanina, nag-enjoy naman kami sa game, 'yun naman ang importante, nage-enjoy kami."
"Basta gawin namin 'yung tama, mag-enjoy kami, tingnan natin 'yung result."
La Salle plays University of the East on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
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