They had pride. So much of it.
But this year is a different story.
"Like I said, wala tayong pride," Abdul said again.
(We don't have pride.)
Palaban. They need it. They need it now.
This was supposed to be Kevin Ferrer's year. With Jeric Teng out of the picture, Ferrer was supposed to become the new King Tiger. However, it was clear from the start that wouldn't be the case, as he started Season 77 in misguiding fashion: 9.6 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 1.4 APG while shooting 25% from the field and 17% from 3-point range.
But making matters worse, Ferrer fractured his left hand during an accident in practice prior to his team's game against FEU. And even with him struggling immensely from the field this season, the Growling Tigers could have used his offense against the Tamaraws, or at the least his hard-nosed mentality.
Without Ferrer, UST showed no fight whatsoever, save for Abdul, Vigil and maybe John Sheriff.
"For me.. Kevin's absence is not a reason for us to lose," Abdul made no excuses after the game.
"You know, we talked yesterday (Thursday), and I told the guys that sometimes when I was a bench player, I would pray that a starter would get hurt or get sick so I could prove that I could [play]," he said before adding that his teammates should "do the same thing," and not just give up "because a starter is absent."
"When will they get their chance, right?" Abdul argued.
UST will get to make up for their loss to FEU on Wednesday, August 27, against the 1-8 UP Fighting Maroons. The Growling Tigers should come out with the victory, no excuses at all. If they don't, they can certainly bid farewell to any possibility of making the Final Four, let alone deserve to be in the playoffs.
But after UP, an eager Ateneo Blue Eagle squad awaits the Growling Tigers. Coming off a dismaying loss to the NU Bulldogs, ADMU, without a doubt, will be eager to get back in the winning column.
UST, on the other hand, will be in survival mode, knowing very well it all could end with a second straight loss to the Blue Eagles. And to come out on top, they will need the better side of Aljon Mariano to show up.
"Aljon is a mature guy. He knows what he has to do. He's the captain of the team, right?," Abdul commented about Mariano.
Saying the fifth-year forward's season has been up-and-down would be putting it kindly. After scoring in double-figures just twice in UST's first four games, Mariano caught fire to end the first round of the season, averaging 19.3 PPG in a three-game span.
However, in his last two games, Mariano has put up a total of just 7 points - 0 in UST's forgettable loss to FEU.
"You don't need to tell him what to do. I think he knows his responsibility," Abdul later said about his teammate.
For UST's sake, Abdul better be right about Mariano, otherwise the Blue Eagles could put the Growling Tigers out for good.
Time to show some puso
Coach Pido Jarencio is a lucky man. Coach Bong Dela Cruz, not so much.
At least according to the view of Abdul, who notes that both coaches are more than viable, though the former had players who displayed more "puso" (heart) in games.
"You know, Coach Pido has his ways. Coach Bong has his ways. For me, they're both good coaches," he said.
But here's how they differ.
"Coach Pido was lucky that he had Jeric Teng, Jeric Fortuna, and other players who had heart."
"Coach Bong is not so lucky he doesn't have as many (players) who have the heart to play."
Nevertheless, Jarencio is gone, as he deals with his responsibilities in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA). Dela Cruz is all UST has, and they will have to ride or die by him for the rest of the season.
The Growling Tigers are in danger of missing the Final Four for the first time in four years, and only for the third time in the last nine seasons. While hope is still alive to avoid such a scenario, it's no secret that their chances are slim, more so with their fate in the hands of their adversaries, as Abdul pointed out.
If UST still believes in their mantra - Pride, Palaban, Puso - then it's time to start showing that just now. Abdul has demanded more out of his teammates, asking them to display more pride in games. UST needs to show as much palaban (fight) as they can as well, or at the least not go down without giving their rivals one hell of a fight.
Puso. It may or may not be enough to make the Final Four. But the Growling Tigers need to at least try.
Before it's all too late. - Rappler.com