MANILA, Philippines – Far Eastern University may have often pushed Ateneo to the limit in the UAAP Final Four, but FEU coach Olsen Racela expects it to be a lot tougher this time.
"Last year wala si (Angelo) Kouame. Iyon ang headache namin ngayon (Last year, Angelo Kouame wasn't around yet. He’s our headache now),” said Racela.
Although the two teams split their elimination meetings, the Tamaraws still remember how the Ivorian center Kouame bullied them with a monstrous double-double of 33 points and 27 rebounds in the second-round duel won by the Blue Eagles.
"We’ll see what we can do,” said Racela. “We’ll prepare hard for this game, we’ll prepare the boys hard, we’ll see what happens."
The Blue Eagles target a third straight Finals stint against the Tamaraws at 3:30 pm on Sunday, November 25 at the Araneta Coliseum. (LIVE UPDATES: Ateneo vs FEU – UAAP Season 81 Final Four Game 1)
After watching the Ateneo-FEU Final Four drama unfold from the sidelines in the last two seasons, Kouame understands why he shouldn't back down easily.
And by now, of course, he knows he’ll be among the Tams’ prime targets.
"Everything in my mind right now is to be focused. We will be prepared for it," he said.
The Tamaraws hope to put up a tougher fight with Arvin Tolentino set to play his first Ateneo-FEU game this season. (READ: All's forgiven with FEU star Arvin Tolentino)
Tolentino – who served two of three suspensions he incurred this season against Ateneo – just salvaged FEU’s season when he knocked in the game-winning triple against La Salle in a playoff for the last Final Four slot last Wednesday.
In the last two seasons, FEU managed to force rubber matches in its semis showdown against Ateneo. The Tamaraws again came close to a title berth last year, but fell short as Isaac Go starred in the clutch. (IN PHOTOS: Ateneo Blue Eagles and FEU Tamaraws play their hearts out in OT thriller)
But the Tamaraws hope to go all the way this time.
"We’ll see what we can do,” said Racela. “Ateneo’s a very tough team. We always bring back last year’s Final Four [as a lesson].” – Rappler.com
More commonly known as “Bee”, Beatrice is a multimedia sports reporter for Rappler, who covers Phillippine sports governance, national teams, football and the UAAP. Stay tuned for her news and features on Philippine sports and videos like the Rappler Athlete’s Corner and Rappler Sports Timeout.