MANILA, Philippines -- National University (NU) will not be satisfied with ending a seven-year Final 4 drought, assured head coach Jeff Napa after the Bulldogs punched their ticket to the semifinals of UAAP Season 85 on Sunday.
The Bulldogs avoided an upset against the University of Santo Tomas (UST), pulling away late for a 67-57 triumph. That hiked their record to 9-3 and assured them of a place in the Final 4 for the first time since Season 78 in 2015.
But Napa was quick to stress that this should just be the first step for a NU team that has higher aspirations this season.
"We have to be ready in our last two games of the second round. Kasi hindi lang naman Final 4 'yung tina-target namin dito," said the coach, who also admitted that it was a "bad win" for the Bulldogs as they struggled to put away UST all game.
"Wala nang pressure sa UST eh so they played their hearts out, talagang binigyan kami ng problema. Pero good thing second half, we came back. At least, naka-regroup kami and nakuha namin 'yung panalo," he added.
The Bulldogs have two games left in their schedule -- against De La Salle University and Adamson University -- and they hold their fate in their hands as they target a twice-to-beat advantage in the Final 4.
Napa knows that securing the semifinals bonus will be crucial if the Bulldogs want to achieve their ultimate goal in Season 85 and firmly establish themselves as one of the "big boys" of the league. As it stands, defending champion University of the Philippines (10-2) also has an inside track to a twice-to-beat bonus.
Ateneo de Manila University (8-3) is still in the hunt as well.
"Ako 'yung hindi nakukuntentong katao na hangga't alam kong merong mabubuga 'yung mga players ko, alam kong may maibibigay pa yung mga players ko," he said. "Talagang pipigain ko sila up to the last."
"Kasi, hindi lang naman sa basketball 'yung usapan namin eh. Pati tina-translate namin in real life so hopefully, kung ano 'yung na-achieve namin ngayon then tuloy-tuloy yung goal namin na gusto namin makuha then 'yun, papunta kami dun sa tinatarget talaga namin," he added.
NU last made the semifinals in UAAP Season 78, when they were defending champions. They finished as the No. 4 seed that year and lost to the Kevin Ferrer-led UST Growling Tigers in the semis.
UAAP Season 85 is streaming on iWantTFC every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, available for Premium users outside the Philippines.