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UAAP coaches welcome break from grueling schedule

MANILA, Philippines – After non-stop action since September, teams are making the most out of a much-needed break to heal up, charge up and brace for an expected tougher competition with five games to go in the UAAP Season 86 basketball tournament.

A bevy of players led by Jerom Lastimosa of Adamson, who’s out for the season due to an ACL injury, absorbed major blows midway as the race to the Final Four heats up in the second round.

“The break will be really welcome for us, not just us but I guess the whole UAAP because players are tired,” said Falcons mentor Nash Racela, noting the rigid schedule for all teams so far for more than a month and counting.

“I don't think it's just an accident. Marami doon is because napapagod narin sila so this will be a good break for not just us but for the whole UAAP.”

Lastimosa will have surgery for his torn ACL on his left knee but is likely to delay it until after the season to be with the squad in an attempt to make another Final Four run without him.

National University’s Jolo Manansala (groin) and Steve Nash Enriquez (jaw), JD Cagulangan (quad) and CJ Cansino (flu) of the University of the Philippines are also nursing injuries. Enriquez is expected to be out for a month while Cagulangan and Cansino are anticipated to return in the resumption of play this Saturday after a week-long break.

“So we should all pray that, I know God probably doesn’t care too much about basketball, and I would not blame Him for that, but you know, if a quantum of prayers help our players stay healthy, that’s a good thing," added Tab Baldwin after a narrow 65-60 loss to the crippled UP side as Ateneo had its fifth loss for only the first time under his watch.

The Lastimosa-less Adamson, which is tied with Ateneo at 4-5 for the No. 4 spot, resumes its drive against the listless University of Santo Tomas (1-8), while the Blue Eagles take on the second-running Bulldogs (7-2) on Saturday.

On Sunday, leader UP (8-1) collides with the streaking La Salle (6-3), at No. 3, while Far Eastern University (3-6) and University of the East (3-6) battle in a key match-up to stay in Final Four contention.