Eagles ready to put collapse behind them
It’s the kind of loss that could crush any team’s spirit. But it’s also the kind of loss that would, the Ateneo Blue Eagles hope, give them a fresh mindset.
“We know that we’re tougher and we know we can handle that challenge against La Salle,” said Ateneo guard Matt Nieto. “We know we can trust in ourselves and we trust in our team. And of course, we trust in coach Tab (Baldwin).”
Ateneo had looked all set to grab the UAAP championship—at least in the first half where the Blue Eagles erected a whopping 49-28 advantage—before La Salle turned the game around behind Ben Mbala and Ricci Rivero for a 92-83 Game 2 triumph last Wednesday that leveled the series at 1-1.
Despite blowing a 21-point lead—and the chance to sweep the title series—the Eagles want to forget about the heartbreak and focus on their second try to bag the crown.
“We won’t think about Game 2,” said Baldwin. “La Salle didn’t think about [their 76-70 loss in] Game 1 and they came out and played.”
“We’d like to put our emotions aside,” added assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga. “We lost this game but we still have the opportunity to win a championship.”
Although momentum may have swung to La Salle’s side, Ateneo thinks it still has a strong shot as the two fierce rivals fight for the crown in a do-or-die Game 3 at 4 p.m. this Sunday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“We have to be focused on Sunday,” said Arespacochaga. “We can’t look at [Game 2] and say sayang (what a waste). We can’t feel sorry for ourselves.”
Ateneo star Thirdy Ravena also hopes the Eagles will be better equipped against a La Salle side that can easily flip the switch.
“It’s a real lesson for us that it’s not over until it’s over,” said Ravena. “We got complacent in the second half.”