NU Lady Bulldogs Reflect on Lessons Learned as UAAP Reign Ends
MANILA, Philippines — As National University’s seven-season reign in UAAP women’s basketball ends, the Lady Bulldogs get an opportunity to learn and be better to reclaim the crown next year. NU’s dream for an eighth straight title was shattered by University of Santo Tomas, which pulled off a come-from-behind 71-69 win in Game 3 as the Tigresses emerged the new queens in the UAAP Season 86 women’s basketball Finals on Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum. “For sure, this is going to sting, it’s going to hurt. But it’s all part of life, part of the sport, somebody has to win and somebody has to learn. And today, we’re in the learning stage. We’ll use that as a motivation and springboard moving forward to next season,” said NU coach Aris Dimaunahan.
“The next question is what do we do next after not getting the result that we want. This loss won’t define us. What would define us is what we would do after this one. We’ll make the adjustments that we need for them to be better players, for them to be better persons as well, more importantly,” he added.
The Lady Bulldogs failed to sustain their 15-point lead late in the third quarter and had no answer when Tantoy Ferrer scored nine straight points before Kent Pastrana scored the game-tying basket, 69-all. Nikki Villasin delivered the championship-clinching layup for UST with 11.8 seconds left.
Dimaunahan, who coached NU for the second straight season, took the blame. “That it’s on me, that I could have put them in a better position. They should be proud of their efforts the entire year. They’ve been practicing every day, going at it on a daily basis for this moment. And I thought the ladies deserved the win, but I myself let it slip away,” the NU coach said. “No questions about their effort and their commitment. So they should be all proud of their efforts and their contributions to the team the entire year.”
National U was pushed to the limits by UST, which picked the right time to end an 11-year and 20-game losing streak to the former with a 76-72 win in Game 1. Coming off its first Finals match defeat in 10 years, the Lady Bulldogs saved their title campaign in Game 2 with a nail-biting 72-70 win to force a rubber match.
However, NU’s reign was ended by coach Haydee Ong’s team as UST still praised the Lady Bulldogs’ program for setting a gold standard in women’s basketball. “It goes a long way. It’s from coach Pat [Aquino], who started all of these streaks, and everything, and those championships. We’re just glad that we were the barometer of excellence and success in women’s basketball in the country, not only in the UAAP but also internationally,” said Dimaunahan.
“It’s a statement of how this organization was made and a statement of how dedicated those who went before us. We feel proud of that. It’s good for our community to be their inspiration, for them to play better and to play harder.”
Dimaunahan will go back to the drawing board as one-and-done Stef Berberabe ended her career with NU, while the other players will still decide if they will come back next year.