Franz Pumaren downplays meeting with La Salle as ‘just another game’

Past meets present as Franz Pumaren and Adamson U takes on his former team, powerhouse La Salle, on Saturday in what promises to be an explosive showdown in the UAAP Season 79 men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Game time is at 2 p.m., with the Soaring Falcons (3-1) out to further prove their status as legit contenders against the dominant Green Archers who have been living up to their lofty billing as the league’s unanimous favorites, winning their first four matches in style.

While the league’s leadership will be on the line, the big showdown will mark the first time that Pumaren is on the other side of the fence against La Salle, which he led to five UAAP titles, including a four-peat romp from 1998 to 2001.

Pumaren, however, refused to drum up what many considers as one of the most must-see matches this year.

“It’s just one of the scheduled games that we have to play,” he said.

But Adamson’s first-year coach certainly knows who they are facing, with La Salle boasting superior firepower led by highly-fancied Cameroon import Ben Mbala and star wingman Jeron Teng.

“They are the hands-down favorites. They have the materials. You just look at their lineup, they’re quite deep,” said Pumaren. “We just have to dig deep for us to compete with the powerhouse team like La Salle. I hope we can sustain and keep the game very close.”

While they’ll come in as the favorites, La Salle’s first-year coach Aldin Ayo returned the favor to Adamson.

“They’re also a tough team. During the press conference, I’ve mentioned Adamson as one of the contenders because of coach Franz’s system, they also have the materials and ‘yung foreigner (Pape Sarr) nila maigi rin. We’re expecting a tough game ahead,” he said.

Aside from the 6-foot-7 Sarr, who’s expected to go toe-to-toe with Mbala, the Soaring Falcons will also pin their hopes on the likes of top rookies Jerrick Ahanmisi, Robbie Manalang, skipper Dawn Ochea and sophomore JD Tungcab.

Standing on their way are the Green Archers’ Teng, Abu Tratter, Kib Montalbo and high-flying freshman Ricci Rivero. – By Jerome Lagunzad