MANILA, OCTOBER 4, 2003 (STAR) Unless Ateneo coach Joel Banal comes up with big adjustments and the Blue Eagles measure up to their fancied rivals, the Far Eastern U Tams could well be on their way to ending a six-year title drought in the UAAP tomorrow and hopefully start a new dynasty in the collegiate league.

For one, FEU mentor Koy Banal wants his boys to wrap up the series in Game 2 and avoid going into a winner-take-all match where fortunes could drastically change in favor of the Eagles. In fact, he vows to come up with a more suffocating defense that anchored their emphatic 83-65 win in the series’ opener last Thursday.

"Kung depensa ang nagdala sa amin sa panalo sa first game, kailangang tibayan pa naming lalo ang depensa para hindi na sila (Ateneo) makabalik," the bespectacled Koy said during yesterday’s SCOOP Sa Kamayan weekly session.

The Ateneo bench tactician begged off to join his younger brother in the forum, citing the need to attend to a team meeting in a frenzied bid to come up with new strategies for tomorrow’s crucial encounter at the Araneta Coliseum.

But despite the rout, Joel remains confident of their chances even when the odds seem to be stacked against them, saying they’ve been in the same situation before.

"I’m still confident we can do it. We’ve been in this situation before. Remember we had to beat UE two in a row last year to make it to the finals," said Joel.

But the Tams appear to be playing on a different level at this stage as shown by their one-sided victory that saw four players churn out double-digit scores. However, it wasn’t FEU’s offense that virtually hurt and took the fight out of the Eagles, but its pressure defense, which forced the defending champions to glaring 26 turnovers.

"Obviously, we’re a step slower. We committed a lot of turnovers and they were able to capitalize. I think they scored over 40 points off our turnovers," said Joel.

"But we lost because of a lot of factors," he added. "We only had one day to prepare (against FEU following our sudden death versus La Salle). And there’s the hangover from that win over La Salle and the fatigue factor."

The former PBA mentor likewise maintained that the Eagles can match up with the Tams despite the latter’s seeming edge in height and talent. "Hindi naman nagkakalayo, halos parehas lang," he said.

But Arwind Santos, Ryan Rizada, Cesar Catli, Gerard Jones, Mark Isip and Dennis Miranda somehow showed the Tams are heads and shoulders above the Eagles with that victory although Koy has warned his wards not to be complacent and watch out for the Eagles’ comeback.

"Like me, coach Joel has a capable coaching staff, dedicated, matalino at may alam. That’s why I have been telling my boys to be prepared. We have had our experience in the PBL when we were enjoying a twice-to-beat edge in the finals but still lost the championship," he said referring to his Viva Mineral Water’s loss to eventual champion Hapee Tooth Paste.

But what worries Koy is the expected role of the Ateneo crowd.

"Isa pa yung leksyon ‘yun na natutunan ko. When we last played in the final against La Salle, agrabyado kami sa tao. Before Game 1, I appealed to the FEU population to go watch us. Sabi ko kahit kalahati man lang ng Ateneo crowd makuha namin. Luckily, the FEU crowd came, rooting and cheering for the team," Koy said.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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