(Coach Leo Austria of the Adamson Falcons)
(Coach Glen Capacio of the FEU Tamaraws)
(Coach Dindo Pumaren of De La Salle Green Archers)
(Coach Norman Black of Ateneo Blue Eagles)
By Katherine Verances Marfal
Adamson University Soaring Falcons outclassed the De La Salle University Green Archers to gain the No.3 spot. Meanwhile, the Far Eastern University Tamaraws was able to hold on the top spot as they defeated Ateneo Blue Eagles. The result of these two matches created the pairings in the Final 4. Definitely, high-intense action, unpredictable, down to the wire ball game and battling for pride are the nature that the fans will expect from the top four teams of the premiere collegiate league in the country.
FEU Tamaraws (1) vs. DLSU Green Archers (4)
In terms of incentives and history, the advantage is on the side of Tamaraws . However, the upset-minded Green Archers are always there to crush back and put their mark on the history book of UAAP. La Salle’s second round victory over the top seeded Tamaraws is a big morale booster going to a do or die showdown this Thursday. The Taft-based dribblers relied on hot shooting of Simon Atkins and strong defensive effort in the fourth quarter to pull a shock off against the league-leader Tamaraws. Despite this incredible performance, definitely the Green Archers will have a tall order in getting back in the finals after two years. Especially playing against a prolific and hungrier Tamaraws, which is an overwhelmed favorite to bag this year’s title, it seems no one would like to be in there place right now. All eyes are on sophomore sensation and league’s Most Valuable Player front-runner Ryan Roose Garcia. The 5 foot 11 spitfire posted not only career-high numbers but also a league-best 17 points per game and 2.4 assists per game during the elimination round. Obviously, the more experienced backcourt and frontline of the Tamaraws, definitely a big factor, but it appears the Green Archers have a deeper bench, based on their performance this season. Aside from Garcia, Glen Capacio will rely also to his holdovers like Smart Gilas teammate J.R. Cawaling and Aldrech Ramos, Reil Cervantes, Pipo Noundu and Paul Sanga. Meanwhile, Coach Dindo Pumaren’s squad will bank on team captain Atkins, Almond Vosostros and Joel Tolentino. Meanwhile someone like Maui Villanueva, Yutien Andrada and Ferdinand will have daunted tasks to outmatch the FEU’s heavyweights. The production of the second unit of Green Archers is more unpredictable and consistent, as the coaching staff effectively reshuffled their rotations. But in the end, it comes down how the young boys of the Green Archers can stick around to the battle-tested personnel of Tamaraws in the 48 minute game. The challenge for the Tamaraws is to prove everybody that there is no replay of last year’s let down against the U.E Red Warriors.
Ateneo Blue Eagles (2) vs. Adamson University Soaring Falcons (3)
It will be the rematch of the 2006 post season. This time the Blue Eagles have less firepower in their lineup while the Soaring Falcons have more balance in their offensive attack. Obviously, it was Ken Bono who carried the scoring cudgels for the Falcons as he honored the MVP in that season and a Final four appearance. Meanwhile, the Blue Eagles have their own version of Big Three as Macky Escalona, Dough Kramer and J.C Intal leading them to go back in the finals. Blue Eagles was able to overcome the Soaring Falcons but not in an easy way. Entering this post season, the San Marcelino-based dribblers are determined to end the 27 games losing streak against the Blue Eagles. Everyone believes that they can pull off an upset especially with more experience lineup at the helm. Unfortunately, their two game losses against the second seeded Eagles were hammered by bad execution in the end game. For the Blue Eagles, it was the system of Coach Norman Black, still the main reason why their grand slam dreams are still alive. In addition to that, some young players are capable of playing like a veteran. Meanwhile the old reliables continue to stabilize the team. In the back court battle, it appears the Soaring Falcons have slight edge over the defending champion. Jerick Canada and Lester Alvarez considered as one of the best point guard combination this season. Both Guys can deliver huge plays and make good decision in the end game. On the other side, it was the inconsistency of Emman Monfort and the inability of playing the point of Kirk Long which made the Blue Eagle’s back court unreliable. In the wing position, Eric Salamat and Ryan Buenafe have an upper hand against the likes of high-flying Alex Nuyles and Janus Lozada because of their experience. In the front court, it seems the Soaring Falcons can dominate this department against the young front line of the Blue Eagles. But during their match up, Nico Salva, Frank Golla and Justin Chua had turn down Michael Galinato, Eric Camson and Jan Collina by outhustling under the board. This final four series turn out to be an explosive aerial duel. One team, who would like to continue their domination in the league and make another title run, while the other one is seeking to take all the opportunities that they have right now, which is missing for a long time. Definitely, the winner is pretty hard to determine, but it will come to a deciding match.
Once the Final Four officially tip-off, it is now or never for the players, especially to those who are graduating this season. It is all about how these cagers can live up to the challenge and play all heart out in jam-packed Araneta Coliseum.
(Photos by: Katherine Verances Marfal)
(Katherine Verances Marfal is a freelance writer. Among the publications she writes for are the Manila Bulletin, Sports Digest, Panorama and Pilipino Star Ngayon. She is a graduate of Philippine Normal University).