MANILA, Philippines — You bet FEU wanted this match-up. Since the V-League Collegiate Conference and since this past elimination round. The monkey on their back is an eagle… the Ateneo Lady Eagles.
The FEU Lady Tamaraws know they have the veterans and the youth to do battle with their Katipunan-based counterparts. Theirs is a deep lineup that coach Shaq delos Santos can bring to bear. It’s all about consistency.
Unlike other opponents, with FEU, I don’t think it’s a problem with mental toughness. It’s more of consistency. With Ateneo, the Lady Tamaraws feel they are inches, or points away from an upset unlike against La Salle where there is a clear fear factor against the defending champions.
If Remy Palma can hold the middle and try to work her mind games on Ateneo (it sadly doesn’t work on everyone), if Bernadeth Pons can continue to hurt with her vast array of shots, if Chin Basas can score, if Jerrili Malabanan can play meaningful minutes, and if they can cause first ball problems for Ateneo, and if there is some consistent play from the setters then this team will be a tough nut to crack for Ateneo.
Before we tackle the setters, let’s look at possibly strategy – the most obvious is to give Ateneo first ball problems. That means Lady Eagles setter Jia Morado will be scrambling for those second balls. That limits her options. The Lady Eagles are better this year in terms of defense but their slow starts are of concern. If FEU can pounce on them, they stand a good chance of an upset.
That’s a lot of ifs. However, it boils down to all of them firing on all cylinders, including that of their playmakers.
When FEU keeps changing their setters between Kyle Negrito and Gel Cayuna, you know they are trying to find that fit. And that bogs down their offense.
However, Negrito has played well of late. No doubt, challenged by the rise of Cayuna. Previously, she had so much difficulty. You bet she wants the starter’s position.
Unlike Ateneo there is only Jia Morado so you know that is a massive plus for the Lady Eagles as they are getting a superb effort from one of the best in the business and this MVP candidate.
Ateneo will have its full complement of players with Jhoana Maraguinot back after missing two matches due to tendonitis.
The win streak against FEU aside, Ateneo knows they cannot take this team lightly. Theirs is a penchant for slow starts but in this Final Four, they cannot leave anything to chance. They are headed into the Final Four flush with confidence especially with the manner in which they defeated La Salle – using almost the entire bench (save for Maraguinot).
The bench players also contributed key points and that has to boost their confidence.
Everyone knows this is a better team this year as they have more weapons in Maraguinot, emotional leader Bea De Leon, Mich Morente who does it on both ends of the court, Kat Tolentino, Kim Gequillana, and Maddie Madayag to name a few.
If Ateneo gets off to a fast start, they know they can weather the inevitable FEU comeback. So expect them to start strong and try to put an end to the Lady Tams’ ambitions.