Issues from last year’s championship hampered La Salle, says Ayo
It’s hard to get to the top, but it’s harder to stay there.
That’s the lesson La Salle coach Aldin Ayo learned the hard way as his Green Archers failed to defend their throne and bowed to archrival Ateneo in a hard-fought 88-86 Game 3 on Sunday.
But for the Sorsogon native mentor, it all boiled down to the team’s inability to shake off the euphoria from last year’s triumph.
“We were not able to handle our championship very well from last season,” he said, refusing to go into details.
La Salle has been regarded as the best team in the collegiate ranks since Ben Mbala’s arrival last season. It wasn’t much of a surprise that the Green Archers almost completed a perfect season last year, with the Cameroonian big man delivering the Season 79 title, the school’s second championship in four years.
But with seniors like main man Jeron Teng graduating from the team, La Salle seemingly lost a stabilizing force, leaving much of the workload on the shoulders of Mbala, rising star Ricci Rivero, and Season 79 Rookie of the Year Aljun Melecio for this year’s campaign.
“There were problems when it comes to our preparation that we were not able to resolve when it came to the championship,” admitted Ayo, who said he was also worried with how they started their season.
Still, no one can deny how hard La Salle wanted the back-to-back romp as it refused to give in, even with Ateneo holding a 10-point lead in the final four minutes, 80-70.
“Of course, we’re going to compete. We’re going to play and squeeze everything in our capacity. I want to compete because we want to win,” he said.
As the dust settled, Ayo reminded his wards to be gracious in defeat.
“I told them that we pray very hard to win, but we have to pray harder everytime we lose. We just have to be grateful for the opportunity, the experience, and make sure that we learn from this.”
The 40-year-old coach also couldn’t help but be amused with apparent pattern on his coaching career which sees him win the championship in his first year just to settle for a bridesmaid finish the following season.
“I always win in my first season and I’m always first runner-up in my second season. Filoil, Davao, even in the province, and now here in the UAAP,” he said as he looks forward to a huge bounce back year in Season 81 for the Green Archers. “I haven’t experienced a third season yet and it’s fresh for me. I don’t know what’s up with that.”
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