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The UAAP Final Four kicks off this weekend with defending champion Ateneo Blue Eagles battling the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers on Sunday and the Far Eastern University Tamaraws going up against the University of the East Red Warriors on Saturday. Both the Blue Eagles and the Tamaraws hold a twice-to-beat advantage, the incentive given to the top two teams at the end of the elimination round.

ON SEMIFINAL GAME
Norman Black (Ateneo Blue Eagles): When we get to the UST game, it will be very easy for me to get the players focused because they know the next step is the Finals already. We're entering the semifinals with the idea that we have to win one game to make it to the Finals. We're not really too concerned with how UST (on a three-game slump) is playing right now. I’ll make sure my team has the energy to execute. We know UST can score a lot of points but they also give up a lot of points. They're the highest scoring team in the league so I expect a high-scoring game. But we have to be able win high scoring games and low scoring games, whichever we run up against.

Pido Jarencio (UST Growling Tigers): We're happy to make it to the semis. La Salle (after losing to National University) gave it to us. So maybe, para sa amin talaga ang Final Four. We're okay with the fourth seed. At the start, many were saying we can't even reach the Final Four.

But now we think we can be the darkhorse this season. Maganda ang depensang ipinakita namin kay Rabeh Al-Hussaini (during the eliminations). Ang problema, nakalimutan naming bantayan yung ibang players nila. Kung hindi kami siguro magka-kanya-kanya, we have a chance against Ateneo.

Glenn Capacio
(FEU Tamaraws): We know how big an advantage the twice-to-beat is because you're just one win away from the Finals. But my players know that no one wins a championship on paper. All the champion teams show it on the floor. We have to show it on the floor. We've struggled in some of our wins the past weeks, so hopefully we'll raise our game in time for the Final Four. Sometimes UE’s physical game takes us out of our rhythm, so the players just have to show character. For us to win, we have to dictate the tempo and play good defense.

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Lawrence Chongson (UE Red Warriors): We'd like to think destiny is on our side. We've beaten FEU convincingly once, so the morale of the team is there. I can see the bounce in the team, the body language is there, they're all positive. But we have to put in mind that the war is just starting. We'd rather focus on our team. [We went] to Cebu for three days of practice and team building. It's not R&R. The scrimmage [against Visayan teams], that's to toughen us a bit more going into the Final Four. I know it's unusual to go out of town late in the season, but everything should be unique for us. UE hasn't won a championship in decades so we want to do things differently. We want everyone to be in tip-top shape.


INTERVIEW BY JASMINE PAYO
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