MANILA, Philippines -- In his last year with National University, John Lloyd Clemente will finally get to play in the UAAP Final 4.
The captain of the Bulldogs poured in 19 points in their 67-57 triumph over the University of Santo Tomas on Sunday -- a win that clinched their spot in the semifinals of Season 85. He also had five rebounds, an assist and a steal, as well as the dagger triple in the final two minutes.
It's a highly-anticipated Final 4 appearance for Clemente, whose collegiate career did not reflect the success he enjoyed in high school with the Bullpups. In the juniors, Clemente and NU were perennial contenders; they emerged as champions in Season 78.
"Masarap, masarap sa pakiramdam kasi nung high school palang diba, every playing year Final 4 kami, nasa Finals kami nila Coach Jeff [Napa]," said Clemente, who also made the Mythical Team in his last year in Season 79.
"Ayun, parang bumabalik lang sakin yung feeling na ganito pala sa Final 4," he added.
NU has not made the Final 4 in the seniors division since Season 78, when they were the defending champions. They reached the semis as the fourth seed and lost to the University of Santo Tomas in the Final 4.
Clemente and Napa both stressed that the Bulldogs cannot be satisfied by reaching the Final 4. At 9-3, they still have a chance to finish in the top two and thus secure a twice-to-beat advantage in the semis.
"Hindi lang naman Final 4 ang tina-target namin," said Napa. "We're looking forward sa kung ano 'yung gusto naming ma-achieve. Ganito 'yung simula ng story na kailangan namin tapusin."
"Madami pa kaming lapses na dapat i-improve," added Clemente, who made four of his seven triples against UST. "Hindi pa kami magiging complacent, kasi pataas na 'yung level ng competition sa Final 4 at 'yung two remaining games."
National U will wrap up its elimination round schedule against De La Salle University and Adamson University, with both games crucial for their hopes of a top two finish.
Clemente says they will leave it all on the floor in both games.
"Sa gawa kami nagpapakita," he said. "Hindi lang kami puro salita, sabi nga ni Coach Jeff. Ginagawa lang namin yung trabaho namin."
UAAP Season 85 is streaming on iWantTFC every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, available for Premium users outside the Philippines.