Ayo wants Growling Tigers to remain hungry
A campaign can have plenty of turning points, but for University of Santo Tomas coach Aldin Ayo and the rest of the Growling Tigers, the foundation to their run to the championship round of UAAP Season 82 opposite two-time defending titlist Ateneo was laid following a loss in a closed-door exhibition game.
There was hardly any fanfare in UST’s duel with National U’s Team B as the Tigers were playing just a few weeks after missing out on the Final Four for the third straight season.
The spotlight was entirely on the Ateneo-University of the Philippines finals series, which the Blue Eagles won via a sweep for their second straight crown.
Losing that game made Ayo realize the work and sacrifice that his team had to put in to achieve their goals this season.
“We just worked so hard for this,” Ayo said, after the Tigers’ 68-65 conquest of the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons sent them to a finals duel with Ateneo starting Saturday.
“We invested so much of our time and effort. We started on Nov. 28 last year when Ateneo won the championship, we lost to the Team B of NU, which isn’t even in the UAAP. That’s when I told the team how much work we were going to put in.”
Ayo recounted how he brought 10 of his players to his hometown of Sorsogon during the Christmas break so they could train and bond.
“We worked and worked,” Ayo said. “Ten of the players spent their Christmas break in Sorsogon. We didn’t actually have that Christmas break. We were practicing twice a day. All those struggles, all those distractions, everything, prepared us for this game [against UP].”
As he sat at a packed postgame press conference at Mall of Asia Arena, though, Ayo refused to take satisfaction on what his team has achieved so far.
“I saw the team was celebrating so I was a bit worried because they looked contented,” Ayo said.
“I don’t want that type of celebration. Some members of the coaching staff—even my wife (Minajoy)—was crying, but I told her: ‘Mommy, we haven’t achieved anything yet.’”
That’s just Ayo’s way of making sure that his Tigers keep growling in hunger.
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