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UAAP 80: Falcons take on Eagles

COACHES of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) pose during a press conference yesterday. From left: Bo Perasol of University of the Philippines, Sandy Arespacochaga of Ateneo, Aldin Ayo of La Salle, Olsen Racela of Far Eastern University, Derek Pumaren of University of the East, Boy Sablan of the University of Santo Tomas, and Jamike Jarin of National University. (Marjorie Sia)

COACHES of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) pose during a press conference yesterday. From left: Bo Perasol of University of the Philippines, Sandy Arespacochaga of Ateneo, Aldin Ayo of La Salle, Olsen Racela of Far Eastern University, Derek Pumaren of University of the East, Boy Sablan of the University of Santo Tomas, and Jamike Jarin of National University. (Marjorie Sia)

by Jerome Lagunzad

Games Today (Mall of Asia Arena)
2 p.m. — UE vs NU
4 p.m. — Ateneo vs Adamson

Adamson coach Franz Pumaren and the Soaring Falcons will face the unknown in the Ateneo Blue Eagles today when they square off in a marquee matchup as the UAAP Season 80 men’s basketball tournament gets going at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Tip off is at 4 p.m., with Adamson, back with a potent young core of Cameroon center Papi Sarr, Rob Manalang, Jerrick Ahanmisi, and Sean Manganti, bracing for an expected tough test from perennial powerhouse Ateneo, last year’s losing finalist.

The Falcons, who made it back to the Final Four round last year on Pumaren’s initial stint at the helm, appear ready to achieve more with the entry of former two-time UAAP juniors MVP Jerie Pingoy and 6-foot-5 Fil-American Tyrus Hill who provide the needed depth.

However, Pumaren said he is still trying how to figure out the Blue Eagles, who have been playing under the radar in the off-season but still pose a formidable unit led by Thirdy Ravena, Aaron Black and towering Isaac Go.

“We’re still in the dark right now because the last time we watched Ateneo was a few months ago. So it’s gonna be tough preparing if you don’t know what’s in store for you,” said Pumaren, a five-time UAAP champion coach, all with La Salle.

Ateneo’s long-time assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga isn’t buying Pumaren’s notion, saying: “For sure nakakuha ‘yang si coach Franz ng tape namin.”

“Even though he is downplaying his team a bit, we know that they’re a very good team. We’re excited and we know it’s going to be a tough game,” he added.

Raising the curtains at 2 p.m. are National University and University of the East.

The Bulldogs, now handled by former San Beda tactician Jamike Jarin, are expected to take full advantage of their height against the all-Filipino Red Warriors, with 6-foot-9 Senegalese center Issa Gaye and a pair of 6-foot-7 big men, Matt Aquino and Tzaddy Rangel, patrolling the lane.

But that won’t mean NU will refuse to step on the gas—if needed. “One thing is for sure and both of us (with UE coach Derrick Pumaren) will agree: the speed limit will be off. Make sure the referees are in shape to run up and down. It’s gonna be very fast,” assured Jarin, who led the Red Lions back to the NCAA throne last year.

Pumaren, for his part, already has an inkling of what UE is up to. “Issa Gaye is really a good import. He’s a perfect fit for them. He’s taller and more versatile, a different player than (former NU import Alfred) Aroga,” he said. “Jamike has also been handling the team pretty well so far and the guys are responding very well.”

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