Pressure fuels Blue Eagles’ rise to the top
MANILA, Philippines—Ateneo completed a historic sweep in the UAAP Season 82 men’s basketball tournament, and twins Matt and Mike said the road to history began in the very confines of the Blue Eagles’ training venue.
Matt said their practices and film sessions are as intense as any other, maybe even more than some of the teams, since it’s the time when head coach Tab Baldwin hammers them with every tiny mistake they make.
It’s in these daily sessions that Baldwin builds the pressure up for his team and that it’s his players’ responsibility to live up to it and play with it.
“We always say that it’s the pressure that builds us. During practice and our film sessions you could only imagine the pressure coach Tab puts on us every time we make mistakes,” said Matt after the Blue Eagles ripped University of the Philippines, completing only the second sweep since the Final Four era was introduced.
“This really is the result [the 14-0 sweep] and that’s why we’re here and it’s all because of the pressure. We don’t back down from it, we always think that we should play the right way and that’s the most important thing.”
Mike said that for them to keep their intensity and focus, Baldwin promised them that he would add schemes to their already brutal system—a system that allowed them to dismantle teams with methodical ease.
Ateneo only had three games decided by a single digit and its average winning margin of the elimination round is 18.1 points and its 71-70 win over University of Santo Tomas was its only cardiac game of the season.
The Blue Eagles have a 16-day break from UAAP competition and it’s in this time frame that Baldwin plans to inject more to his system heading into the finals.
“Actually we really don’t know what coach Tab will add so we were surprised when he told us that,” said Mike. “Knowing coach Tab, and how his mind works, I’m sure he’s loving the sweep, but we’ll be back to work immediately.”
This may be the first time that the Blue Eagles swept the eliminations in the Final Four era, but the Nieto twins have already experienced heading into the championship round unscathed but they lost Game 1 of the finals against National University 76-72.
The Blue Eaglets eventually weathered the Bullpups and took the next two games to claim the title.
“Before the season, there already was pressure put on us and now going to the finals it’s even bigger but we won’t back down,” said Matt, whose Blue Eagles are gunning for a third straight championship. “Actually we want the pressure more because it builds character.”
“Coach Tab won’t ever allow us underachieve, we’ve learned our lesson from before, and I think we won’t ever take a rest during this time before the finals,” said Mike.
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