Game of the year, triumph for the ages
The La Salle Green Archers failed to hold on to the UAAP basketball crown, dropping the championship match by two points, 88-86, on Sunday. The ascendant Ateneo Blue Eagles won the 80th UAAP championship in a game that won’t be easy to forget.
It’s indeed a win for the ages. It’s hands-down game of the year.
There are those who would try to call the Ateneo victory an upset, La Salle being a pre-championship favorite.
The memorable match will be given a dozen other glorious labels.
It’s similarly hard to zero in on a single factor that decided and clearly clinched the championship. There’s none.
Coach Tad Baldwin was quick to admit it: Everybody was great, but most specifically the entire Ateneo team.
Then he acknowledged the intangibles, stressing they were also able to build up on past defeats and mistakes.
Yes, it was a long, hard climb. But wasn’t Baldwin trying to underplay his very special role in the championship campaign.
“In the end, it’s MVP, it’s Mr. Pangilinan who should get credit for this,” Baldwin told a harried interviewer in the middle of the dazzled wood court.
Baldwin said MVP dealt them everything they needed. He did not have to elaborate.
One straying La Salle supporter tried to steal the scene and desperately flaunted a green team jersey that boasted “La Salle Mentality.”
There were cliffs and sharp turns, there was blood, but what continued to dazzle Blue Eagle team devotees was the three-point basket that pushed Ateneo onto a 5-point perch 24.7 seconds to go at Smart Araneta Dome on Sunday.
The divine shot was taken by six-foot-7 backup center George Isaac Go from deep right arc, and looped on a rainbow burp way up over the goal. Go would however refuse to take credit, stressing it was done through clutch planning and support from everybody out there.
Congratulations Ateneo, hats off to La Salle for a noble stand. It would be reported the morning after that blue light enveloped the façade of the La Salle building on Taft Avenue minutes after Ateneo won its first UAAP title in five years, its tenth overall in UAAP history.
That’s it. But in the end, the story won’t be complete without mention of coach Baldwin’s timely command for the Blue Eagles to break away from traditional championship ball starting Game 1 of the best-of-3 title showdown. Baldwin may again refuse to take credit, but his call for war against the harsh power-playing Archers clearly paid off. The Eagles did get dumped, bloodied, bruised at the start of the title series. But playing sharp, tough, ugly and bold would prove to be the best revenge.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.