Young blood keys Eagles’ scrappy win; Bulldogs up
The Ateneo Blue Eagles just came out of a scrappy opening game in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament victorious and coach Tab Baldwin already knows that it would be a long, arduous season ahead.
“I feel like this year it’s not going to be a simple formula to win games. We have to figure things out every game,’’ said Baldwin after the Blue Eagles squeaked past the gritty Far Eastern University Tamaraws, 79-70, on Sunday at Mall of Asia Arena.
Forthsky Padrigao and Bryan Andrade pieced together a prolific act in the closing minutes that saved the Eagles from being hounded further by the rampaging Tamaraws.
“Fortunately we have good players, smart guys. And the more experience we gain, the more we can figure things out,’’ said Baldwin.
Padrigao delivered the dagger—a three from the left wing with 38.5 seconds left—as he scored nine of his 19 points in the final quarter that went with seven assists, six rebounds and two steals in inheriting the starting point guard spot following the exodus of SJ Belangel to the professional South Korean league.
“I just told myself to face every challenge and overcome it. I’m glad that we won our first game and we hope to build something from it in our succeeding games,’’ said Padrigao.Andrade was likewise comfortable in his new role, sinking 15 points, including five straight in one stretch that put the Eagles ahead by 14 and made life miserable for the Tamaraws.“If they don’t know Forthsky Padrigao’s name before this game, then they don’t know anything about basketball,” Baldwin said. “This kid is a winner, a champion and he’s a tough guy.”
“He’s the dirtiest player I have on the team. You strip him down and there’s no fear. He loves the moment,’’ added Baldwin.
Lj Gonzales scattered 19 points for the Tamaraws, who went on a 16-0 run late in the first half to keep the Eagles on their toes until the waning minutes of the third period.
The Tamaraws haven’t beaten the Eagles, last year’s losing finalist, since Season 81.
Jake Figueroa herded National University (NU) to a strong finish for a 77-70 thrashing of University of the East in the curtain-raiser.
Figueroa scattered eight of his 13 points when it mattered most as the Bulldogs pulled away for good after the Red Warriors mounted a dizzying third-quarter surge.
“We came out flat in the third quarter, a stretch where we usually come out strong,’’ said NU coach Jeff Napa.
Trailing by 15 points early on, the Red Warriors pulled within one, 53-52, prompting the Bulldogs to hit the panic button.
“We somehow relaxed and we have to address that, especially since the teams this season are balanced,’’ said Napa.
Patrick Yu added 13 points and Michael Malonzo had 10 for the Bulldogs, who played without injured guard Steve Nash Enriquez.
The Warriors lost their 15th straight game following a winless Season 84. INQ
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