Given a stern reality check by defending champion Letran the last time out, top contender Arellano U tries to get back on track on Tuesday against formidable Mapua in the 92nd NCAA seniors basketball tourney at The Arena in San Juan City.
The Chiefs saw their ferocious start get derailed on Thursday night when they absorbed a 79-89 setback dealt by the Knights, causing them to drop their first match in three starts while getting a strong reminder that their title chase won’t be any easier.
Although he’s disappointed with his wards’ recent performance following a two-week break, Arellano U coach Jerry Codiñera said that setback could only fire up the Chiefs to make a big fightback against the Cardinals, who are still undefeated after four games like host San Beda.
“Malaking bagay na ngayon nangyari ‘yun. Na-realize namin na marami pa kaming kulang sa team,” said the former pro league great, trying to convince themselves that it could be a blessing in disguise.
“Ganun talaga kasi sa haba ng tournament, lalabas talaga ‘yung mistakes ng players. Part of growth namin yun as a team,” Codiñera added.
Bouncing back quick is easier said than done for Arellano U, especially going up against a Mapua side coming off an impressive 76-61 victory over San Sebastian last Friday.
Making the Cardinals’ latest win more impressive is the fact that they didn’t need any help from reigning league MVP Allwell Oraeme who was benched all-game long by coach Atoy Co.
But Codiñera is not one to mind the Cardinals’ own predicament, knowing all he needs to do is keep the Chiefs in their toes amidst the killer stretch that also includes another tough task in the mold of host San Beda on Friday.
“We just have to get ready for the next two games and make some adjustments especially going against ‘yung mga big man ng Mapua at San Beda,” he said.
Foremost on the adjustments that Codiñera will have to make is finding the third option on the Chiefs backcourt who could provide consistent support to the formidable duo of Jiovani Jalalon and Kent Salado.
Both Jalalon and Salado groped for form against the Knights’ stymieing defense, combining for just 19 markers on 7-of-26 shooting from the field.
“‘Yun ‘yung sinasabi ko during the summer. Hinahanap pa namin ‘yung next guard na mag-i-step up ‘pag off sila Jio at Salado,” said Codiñera.
How quick Codiñera and the rest of the Chiefs coaching staff have found the solution to their problem will be known soon.
“I never said that we were a complete team kahit sinasabi ng iba na kami ang favorites. I never said that we can dominate. What I believe is ‘yung NCAA is a different tournament. Na-expose ‘yung weaknesses namin pero ganun talaga. We just have to make some adjustments,” he pointed out. – By Jerome Lagunzad
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