NASH Racela does not want to start his professional career just yet.
The Far Eastern University (FEU) has still a mission to fulfill and that is to defend their men’s basketball crown in Season 79 University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP).
Pushed by No. 2 Ateneo de Manila in the brink of getting dethroned after trailing by as much as 10 points in the final quarter, the Tamaraws rediscovered their old selves, and behind Monbert Arong and Reymar Jose, FEU managed to squeeze in for a 62-61 escape last Saturday to force a winner-take-all match on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Racela, appointed as the new TNT Katropa mentor in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), commended his players for not giving up and playing with sense of urgency.
“I remember during the quarter break, I was telling the players not to break down. There were a lot of questionable calls. We’re trying our best. Halos bumigay na kami,” Racela said.
“They accepted the challenge. Monbert finally played well, at sana magtuluy-tuloy. I think the whole team was ready to pitch in,” he added.
Racela and the Tamaraws entered their Final Four match against the Blue Eagles with a lot of questions on their minds after seeing their twice-to-beat bid evaporated and settled for the No. 3 spot after losing three of their last four matches.
On Saturday Ateneo was on the verge of forging the “dream showdown” with early finalist De La Salle, but FEU and Racela have other plans in mind.
Arong poured all of his 13 points in the second half, while Jose put up a gallant performance with 20 points and 23 rebounds as the graduating forward does not want to end his UAAP career on a sour note.
“’Yung puso ko ayaw pa magbakasyon. Gusto ko na kahit anong mangyari, lalaban kami,” Jose said. “Last year ko na kasi ngayon kaya kailangan mag-double effort.”
Racela again criticized the spotty officiating in their semifinal match but encouraged his wards not to lose focus. And behind Jose and Arong, the Tamaraws responded with a solid fightback and stunned the Ateneo crowd.
“Each and every person in the team really contributing to the cause. I think from the first to the 16th player, nag-contribute today. Wala akong naalala na isang player na pinasok ko na hindi nakapagbigay ng contribution. And that’s what we need going to the next game,” Racela said.
The FEU bench tactician expects his counterpart Tab Baldwin to make the necessary adjustments in their do-or-die match on Wednesday set at 4 p.m. at the Big Dome.
Both teams will be well rested and the Tamaraws’ playoff experience will come into play.
“It’s also a factor,” Racela said. “For sure, they [Blue Eagles] will make their adjustments. Ateneo is a very talented team. They will find ways to make things work.”