MANILA, Philippines -- Regardless of the result of their games, the National University (NU) Lady Bulldogs adhere to a "24-hour rule" imposed by their head coach, Aris Dimaunahan.
"Merong rule si Coach Aris na after a game, after a win, we have 24 hours to celebrate and to be happy about that," recalled team captain Mikka Cacho. "And then after noon, we gotta stay focused and start na ulit kaming mag-training, and back to zero na ulit kami."
Yet Cacho won't deny that the result of their UAAP Season 85 second round game against De La Salle University remains one of her primary motivations, now that they are in the finals.
The Lady Archers pulled off a 61-57 upset of the Lady Bulldogs in that game last November 23, handing NU their first loss since 2013. It ended NU's 108-game winning streak, a historic run that saw them win six straight UAAP women's basketball titles.
"For me, siyempre," Cacho said when asked if the loss still stings. "'Yun ang isa sa pinakatahimik na dugout na narinig ko, sa buong career ko dito sa NU."
"Pero mas naka-motivate sa akin 'yun, kasi gusto ko 'yung susunod na last na laro ko dito sa NU, 'yun ang pinakamaingay na gusto ko rin marinig dito," she added.
Cacho made sure that the Lady Bulldogs erased some of the pain from that defeat on Wednesday afternoon, when she led the team to a 93-61 demolition of La Salle in Game 1 of the Season 85 finals.
Her three-pointer late in the first quarter highlighted an 18-4 NU run that put them in control, and they wound up leading by as much as 33 points in the blowout win. The veteran finished with 16 points on 5-of-7 shooting in just a little over 17 minutes of action.
The big win put NU on the brink of a seventh straight UAAP women's basketball championship. This time, Cacho said they must follow their coach's 24-hour rule and immediately switch their focus.
"Focus na ulit sa next game namin sa Sunday, and ayun, focused kami sa game palagi," she said. "Kahit anong mangyari, bibigay namin lahat pag-tungtong namin sa court, kasi binibigyan kami lahat ni Coach Aris ng tiwala, so dapat ibalik namin sa kanya."
Dimaunahan, for his part, is also keeping his players on an even keel despite their impressive Game 1 win. He is well aware that the Lady Archers have what it takes to beat them, and wants the Lady Bulldogs to stay focused.
"We coaches always remind the players to play this game in a 40-minute span. Kailangan, from the start, the middle, hanggang final buzzer, laruin namin kung anong laro ng," he stressed.
Game 2 is on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
UAAP Season 85 is streaming on iWantTFC every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, available for Premium users outside the Philippines.