Playing for immortality
On the cusp of completing a perfect season after an emphatic Game 1 win, Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin seems to be the least worried over where his team stands when put side by side with the best squads in UAAP history.
For Baldwin, the Blue Eagles can’t get ahead of themselves, what with a worthy opponent in the hard-fighting University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers standing in the way of a 16-game sweep of Season 82.
Anticipating a big fight back from the Tigers, the Blue Eagles vow not to let up as they shoot for the clincher in Game 2 at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Mall of Asia Arena, where Ateneo can immortalize itself as a champion for the ages.
“We understand that this game is a chance to finish the season,” said Baldwin. “And then we’ll let all of you talk about what you think about the team, what you think of whatever is related to our team.”
A Game 2 victory will seal a third straight crown for Ateneo. But the Eagles have minced no words in making their true goal this season clear.
“Of course, the three-peat is one of our goals, but we also want to be known as the greatest [collegiate] team ever,” said Ateneo captain Mike Nieto before the season started.
That peerless tag is now at Ateneo’s security-tight Katipunan gates.
No team has completed a 16-game season sweep in UAAP history, with University of the East losing in the finals 12 years ago after going 14-0 in the elimination round.
A 1993 UST team did complete an unbeaten season, but the Tigers of coach Aric Del Rosario only played 14 games as rules then called for an automatic title win in the event of an elimination round sweep.
“We’re 1-0 so it doesn’t matter what happened in the past,” said Baldwin, after the Eagles, boosted by Thirdy Ravena’s 32 points, walloped the Tigers, 91-77.
“Each of our games [this season] was won because we took those games seriously and tried to play our best game in that game. Win the game and whatever comes with that, comes with that.
“We don’t want our focus on anything else. Especially any talk about records or anything like that.”
The Tigers also have to worry about Ravena, who seems to take his game to the next level in the big stage every time.
But UST’s Aldin Ayo said they can’t just focus their defense on Ravena.
“It’s not just about Thirdy,” said Ayo. “If we want to stop them, well we have to stop the whole team.”
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