UAAP Jrs: 'Veteran' Kai Sotto leads troops once again in Finals rematch vs NU

Philip Matel on Feb 15, 2019 06:45 PM
'Veteran' Sotto leads troops once again in Finals rematch
He also had some veterans like SJ Belangel, Dave Ildefonso, Jason Credo, coach Joe Silva and others to help him along the way, but this time it will be much different.

Last year, Kai Sotto made himself known throughout the Philippine basketball world by being the Finals MVP in a hard-fought series against the NU Bullpups last year.

He also had some veterans like SJ Belangel, Dave Ildefonso, Joaqui Manuel, Jason Credo, head coach Joe Silva and others to help him along the way, but this time it will be much different.

Facing Ateneo are the Bullpups once again, a retooled squad which sharpened its fangs with some additions like Carl Tamayo and Gerry Abadiano, who were redshirted last year due to residency.

But now, with only five players left from that championship squad, the soon to be crowned UAAP Season 81 Juniors MVP will be all-out against a very hungry NU-Nazareth School squad who has not won a title since Season 78.

"Usually they win every other year, pero for the past two years, they've lost. We know that they'll come in very, very hungry. We'll have to do work as well. Pagkatapos nito, after nito, practice na ulit kami tomorrow morning. Practice on Sunday," said Ateneo mentor Reggie Varilla.

Sotto, who shared that he was hobbled by a sprain in the first half, only scored a measly 3 points, but his teammates were able to pick up the pace.

As the third quarter started, Sotto remerged as a focused teen, all-bent to get the ball in the post.

Though double-teamed and harassed by a formidable FEU Baby Tamaraws defense, Sotto was able to score 19 in the deciding half, boosting the Eaglets to a 90-82 win against coach Allan Albano's squad.

"Noong time na wala akong ginagawa, tinitignan ko mabuti kung paano mag-bounce back sa 2nd half ko. Hinayaan ko lang na trabahuhin ng buong team. Yung 19 points ko noong 2nd half, dahil nalibre ako. Dahil sila talaga umiskor noong 1st half kaya medyo lumuwag sa akin," said the 7 foot 1 wunderkind.

Facing against the team that had beaten them twice this year, it won't be easy for the defending champs in putting up a fight in retaining their title.

But for the 'veteran' 16-year-old, the team will need to be on their toes against a loaded squad headlined by Terrence Fortea, Tamayo, Abadiano, and their deep bench.

"Kailangan din naming maging ready kasi alam naming ibibigay talaga ng NU yung lahat," Sotto said.

With or without Forthsky Padrigao, who suffered cramps and some pain in his quadriceps or on the knee per Varilla, Ateneo will be ready and will employ a next-man-up mentality,

"If hindi makalaro si Forthsky on Monday, we’ll be ready. Ganun naman nangyari nung first round. And we have [Ian Espinosa], our super rookie, who made 19 points and 4 assists today. Forthsky wasn’t there, this guy stepped up. Ganun lang sa team namin, kung may mawala, may se-step up," added Varilla.

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