|OLFU's Ralph Rivera (in green shirt) and SCC's Jino Manansala (in white shirt)|
NAASCU Finals: Who’s hungrier - SCC Saints or OLFU Phoenix?
by rick olivares
The 16th NAASCU Men’s Basketball championship will come down to experience versus hunger. If you ask the St. Clare College Saints who are making their fifth consecutive NAASCU Finals but were denied the past three seasons by Centro Escolar University (that has since left the league), they are definitely hungry to regain the summit. If you ask Our Lady of Fatima University Phoenix, being first timers in the big dance doesn’t mean they are any less hungry.
Although the Phoenix lost to the Saints, 71-54, during the elimination round, OLFU topped the standings with a 10-3 record while SCC was a match behind with a 9-4 slate.
“After going through the early part of the season undefeated, we got complacent,” rued SCC head coach Jino Manansala whose squad won seven straight before dropping three consecutive matches. “We had to go back to basics.”
Basics meaning hard practices where no quarter was given and everyone hungry for all rebounds, loose balls, rejecting shots, and making buckets.
OLFU on the other hand bucked that early loss to SCC before they found their groove with Cameroonian center Chris Essomba picking up his interior game along with Emil Japzon and Joseph Marquez likewise contributing.
“I think that we are peaking at the right time,” said OLFU head coach Ralph Rivera who played for San Beda once upon a time. “I think we are a much better team that when we last played Saint Clare.”
The Saints have made three consecutive finals losing in the Fr. Martin’s Cup to Arellano University but winning the Milcu Got Skills championship over De La Salle. “We’d like to end the year on a good note,” added Manansala.
SCC has a young team that will play together for a few more years while OLFU has one senior in Marquez who has D-League experience having suited up for Wangs.
The best-of-three NAASCU Finals tips off on Tuesday, October 11, 2016 at the Makati Coliseum.