UAAP: Napa vows young NU squad will be ready for Final 4

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 05 2022 07:33 PM

The National University (NU) Bulldogs battle it out against the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) Blue Eagles for the UAAP Season 85 Men’s basketball tournament held at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City on November 2, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News
The National University (NU) Bulldogs battle it out against the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) Blue Eagles for the UAAP Season 85 Men’s basketball tournament held at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City on November 2, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines -- After a shaky conclusion to their campaign in the elimination round, National University (NU) coach Jeff Napa vowed that his Bulldogs will be ready for their Final 4 encounter against the University of the Philippines (UP). 

The Bulldogs saw their chances of securing a top two seed evaporate when they lost their final two assignments against De La Salle University and Adamson University. They instead settled for a 9-5 record and the No. 3 seed, putting them in a must-win situation against the Fighting Maroons when they play on Wednesday. 

"Siyempre kahit papaano, still bata 'yung team ko," Napa pointed out after they bowed to the Soaring Falcons, 64-63, on a Jerom Lastimosa game-winning three-pointer last November 26.

"[This is] their first time na ma-experience na, we're in a comfortable situation, na no matter what happens, hindi na kailangang isipin na kailangan pumasok ng Final 4 or whatsoever," he added. "[Ang] observation ko, nag-sink in 'yung pressure."

The silver lining for Napa is that they were given plenty of time to prepare for the Final 4 -- something that the coach believes his young players sorely need.

Because Adamson and La Salle played in a knockout game for the last Final 4 spot -- with the Soaring Falcons emerging triumphant -- NU had 10 days to gear up for their do-or-die game against the defending champions.

Napa said the Bulldogs will maximize every second of the time they have.

"Sabi ko sa kanila, next week, mark my words. Sabi ko sa kanila, magkakaroon tayo ng Holy Week. Sabi ko kanila, talagang ipaparamdam ko ulit sa inyo 'yung Holy Week na na-experience ninyo, para coming to the battle, coming to the Final 4, semifinals, alam ko napahirapan ko na sila," the coach said.

"Pagdating doon, mage-enjoy na lang sila pagdating ng Final 4," he added.

It will still be an uphill climb for NU, as they have to beat the Fighting Maroons twice in order to return to the finals for the first time since Season 77, when they won it all to end a six-decade title drought. 

This is the kind of challenge that Napa relishes, and he is optimistic that his Bulldogs will rise to the occasion.

"Yung adversity coming off two game loss of the elimination, medyo mabigat," he acknowledged. "But the good thing is we're in the Final 4."

"Kailangan naming talunin ng dalawang beses 'yung andoon sa taas. So, 'yun ang pinakamasarap na mae-experience as a coach and as a player, na ma-overcome 'yung adversity na 'yun," he added.

NU split its elimination round encounters against UP: they won in the first round, 76-71, in what was the first loss of the season for the defending champions. The Fighting Maroons got back at them with a 75-63 triumph in round 2.

UAAP Season 85 is streaming on iWantTFC every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, available for Premium users outside the Philippines.

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