National University won its fourth straight win-or-go-home match on Wednesday.
The Bulldogs did that by blanketing Far Eastern University’s gunners with their trademark defense that allowed them to score a masterful 62-47 thumping of the Tamaraws, sending the UAAP Season 77 Finals in a winner-take-all Game Three next week.
FEU has all the tools to outgun NU, considering that it has Mac Belo, the team’s leading scorer this season, plus the high-flying, athletic guard in Mike Tolomia.
But lo and behold, just as about everybody was probably dismissing the Bulldogs after their Game 1 loss, the boys of NU coach Eric Altamirano showed they still have enough fight left in their tank.
In Game 2, NU played with a lot more energy and purpose compared to FEU, this despite that fact that the Tamaraws’ green-and-yellow supporters easily outnumbered their blue-clad counterparts in what has become a record-setting gate attendance at the Araneta Coliseum in a basketball game.
Wednesday’s gate attendance stood at 24,896, more than the 24,883 that showed up during the Barangay Ginebra-San Mig Game 7 semifinal setto in this year’s Philippine Cup.
Come next Wednesday (Oct. 15), stats wouldn’t really matter.
Every Tamaraw and every Bulldog on the floor is expected to give every ounce of his strength in Game 3, being the final game of the UAAP season.
Any of the two Finals protagonists will end up making history with a UAAP men’s basketball championship.
For FEU, a Game 3 win would mean bagging a record 20th UAAP men’s basketball, while putting an end to nine years of fruitless campaigns.
But for NU, a Game 3 victory means more than just a basketball championship.
It would mean putting to rest 60 years of heartbreak and frustration.
And it would also serve as a fitting tribute to the school’s past owners (the Paguia family) and the present owners (the Sy family), whose efforts since their take over in 2008 helped make NU “relevant” once more in the UAAP.