UAAP: Jeff Napa says NU failed to raise game in Final Four exit

NU coach Jeff Napa UAAP

NU coach Jeff Napa.–MARLO CUETO/

MANILA, Philippines — National University coach Jeff Napa admitted the Bulldogs failed to level up their game as they couldn’t get over the hump in the Final Four, ending their UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball tournament with three consecutive losses.

“We’re here to compete and to level up our game. Doon siguro kami nagkulang, to level up our game. Hindi rason ‘yung may injuries whatsoever,” said Napa after getting dominated by La Salle, 97-73, in their Final Four clash on Saturday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

“Medyo huli na nga lang nu’ng na-kumpleto kami. ‘Yun nga, sabi ko nga sa kanila ‘pasensiya na na dito lang ulit ‘yung inabot natin. Nag-apologize ako sa kanila na ito lang ‘yung naging resulta ng season na ‘to,” he added.

The Bulldogs settled for bronze for the second straight season falling to the surging Green Archers, who forged a championship duel against the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons.

It was a disappointing ending for NU, which faced several injuries this season with Steve Nash Enriquez suffering a broken jaw, Kenshin Padrones sustaining a fractured orbital bone, and Reinhard Jumamoy and Jolo Manansala missing some games.

National U was contending for the two twice-to-beat advantages after winning 10 of their first 12 games only to drop its remaining elimination matches against Adamson and UP, falling to the third spot with La Salle ending its season.

“Disappointed. Kumbaga, this is not the way we like to end our season. Still, we have to move on, we have to move forward. Still proud of the guys. Despite so many adversities, naitagos namin ‘yung season na ‘to,” Napa said. “Kaya nga sinabi ko sa kanila during the last huddle, we have to compete at i-level up ulit kung ano ‘yung talent na binigay sa’min para at least, hindi kami maging failure ulit at saka siyempre, para rin sa mga futures nila.”

Napa, who was holding back his tears when he thanked the NU community for their support, was still proud that they emerged as one of the ‘big boys’ in the league with their second straight bronze.

“At least, hindi na kami gatecrasher dito sa Final Four ng UAAP. May napatunayan sila. Although we fell short, two games na lang eh. Sayang,” he said.

Mike Malonzo is the only player, who exhausted his playing years in the UAAP, but Napa will still talk to some of his players pondering on their future in collegiate basketball as well the management about their plans as the Bulldogs vow to never stop dreaming until they reach the top.

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“Siyempre, nakita ko sa kanila na kaya pala nila. So, susubukan ulit. Tignan namin. Hindi ko rin masasabi kung ano ‘yung future ahead of us. Ito pa lang ‘yung kontrolado ko,” Napa said. “Mag-uusap muna ulit kami ng management together with our coaches, together with the players para we come up kung anong mga plano at preparation for next year.”