ISAAC Go feels confident.
So confident in fact, that it showed in a 73-67 win by his Ateneo Blue Eagles over the Adamson Soaring Falcons at the end of the first round, thereby clinching for the Katipunan-based team the no. 2 seeding in the Final Four of the 79th University Athletic Association of the Philippines’ men’s basketball tournament.
“It feels good to be in the Final Four. At the start o f the year, people were counting us out. They had us at five,” said Go.
The win put them on a collision course with the defending champion Far Eastern University Tamaraws, who earned the no. 4 seeding
Go’s matchup with Adamson’s Pappi Sarr may not be much, considering that the Cameroonian big man is the league’s no. 2 rebounder.
“He’s a great player. If he wants to go right, he can go right. The only thing I can do is make it difficult for him,” said Go.
Go made nine points and eight rebounds in that game, while Sarr went on finish with 17 points and 23 rebounds.
Initially, Go was not expected to play a big role in the rotation of the Ateneo Blue Eagles as their big man Chiebueze Ikeh and Gideon Babilonia were the main men underneath.
And with Babilonia sidelined after he suffered an injury against La Salle in the first round, coach Tab Baldwin and the coaching staff made adjustments in search of the next man up.
These adjustments made Go think of boosting his fitness levels because he will have to go toe-to-toe with the big men of the other teams.
In their first Final Four game with FEU last Nov. 26, the Tams won, 62-61, with the big plays of Raymar Jose and Monbert Arong sparking FEU’s comeback from 10 points down.
Here, Go had 8 points and nine rebounds, while Jose dominated with 20 points and 23 rebounds.
It was in the rubber match with the Tams that Go made a difference.
His nose bled in the last four minutes following a wayward elbow from Prince Orizu in a rebound battle.
When the bleeding stopped, Go made up for his momentary absence in the final second of overtime with a defensive play that lifted the Eagles to 69-68 overtime triumph over the defending champions.
After Thirdy Ravena missed an attempt and turned the ball over in the last four seconds, Go sprinted over to the other side and made the biggest defensive play of the season.
The 6’7” Go put his big hands in front of Ron Dennison as he was making an attempt off Arong’s pass from outside the paint.
Dennison released the ball too late and this kept members of the Tams from handing their coach Nash Racela a fitting present on his 45th birthday.
The basket went in but after the buzzer sounded and the Eagles found themselves in the finals against arch-rival and odds-on favorite La Salle, one of the most fearsome teams this season, with big man Ben Mbala lurking in the shaded lanes.
And Go is expected to have matchups with him.
“We just have to prepare for this. They’re a great team. They’re 13-1 in the eliminations,” said Go.
On the other hand, Baldwin feels that the team will have to do what it takes to face the Green Archers.
“We should really get down to the business of the finals. We really labored for this point throughout the year. This is an incredibly young team,” said Baldwin, who feels that their win with FEU is special since the Tams were the defending champions.
Facing the Green Archers this time will be a bigger challenge, considering that they have a tough interior defense.
But, Go making things difficult for the Green Archers to progress in the finals will not be his job alone, but a role he will share with the entire team. Good thing, his confidence level is at all-time high.
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