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Season on the brink

FEU’s Prince Orizu and Thirdy Ravena of Ateneo are expected to play major roles for their respective teams in their sudden death for the other finals berth today. Jun Mendoza

MANILA, Philippines — After lording it over the field majority of the season, Ateneo is suddenly fighting for dear life.

And for the first time this year, Far Eastern U is living to its true potential.

The top-seeded Blue Eagles and the No. 4 Tamaraws put everything on the line as they seek to go farther in their respective journeys in the UAAP Season 80 men’s basketball tournament.

The Eagles, after a 13-0 start, seemed to lose a step or two of late as they not only ended the elims with a 76-79 loss to rival La Salle but also lost twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four with a 67-80 setback to the Tams last Sunday.

The FEU cagers, mostly a blow-hot, blow-cold team in the tourney, showed they truly belong in the elite with that emphatic rout of the No. 1 seeds and can complete the reversal in the 4 p.m. Final Four knockout for the right to meet the Green Archers in the finals.

“For me, it’s really just back to the drawing board,” said AdMU coach Tab Baldwin, who stressed the Eagles have to “get back to understanding what we do well and sort of rediscover who we are.”

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“We have to take a good hard look at FEU’s schemes. I think we knew what they were, that’s why we had good shots early, we just didn’t hit them. And when your defense isn’t doing its job on the end of the floor, that probably gets into your head a little bit on the offensive end. We just have to play better and play much closer to what we’re capable of.”

The Eagles are in some sort of slump but ace Thirdy Ravena maintained they’re still upbeat about this campaign.

“Generally, the mood is still positive. We know that those two losses are just bumps that we had to go through for us to learn from our mistakes. We’re preparing well for the big game and we can’t wait to play FEU once again,” Ravena said.

The Tams, who are aiming to become only the third No. 4 seeds to upset the No. 1 and reach the championship series, come into the rubbermatch with more confidence now.

“As I told them before the game (last Sunday), we’re peaking at the right time,” said FEU mentor Nash Racela.

The formula to beating fancied Ateneo is still already there.

Kung pwede doblehin, triplehin namin yung ginawa namin nung Sunday to beat Ateneo again (If we can double, triple the things we did from the last game, the better our chances to beat Ateneo again),” said Racela.

Notes: Asked which between AdMU and FEU he prefers as challenger to the throne, DLSU coach Aldin Ayo said: “Whoever is deserving. Sabi nila (There’s a saying) be careful what you wish for. Kasi if you pick sometime, it adds to the pressure, because pinili mo tapos yun ang kalaban mo, right away hindi pa nag-uumpisa ang laro, motivated na kalaban mo (if your preferred opponent actually makes it, even before the series starts, they’re already motivated),” he said. “So whoever is deserving, we’re going to play against them.” During Sunday’s AdMU-FEU tussle, though, Ayo was spotted wearing a blue-colored shirt.

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