UAAP: Despite struggles, Dave Ildefonso still leads Ateneo to victory
MANILA, Philippines—Dave Ildefonso’s shooting woes did not prevent him from providing significant contributions in Ateneo’s overtime win over University of the East on Wednesday.
Ildefonso shot just 3-of-14 from the field but still made the crucial baskets, including a clutch 3-pointer to force OT while also delivering the intangibles to help Ateneo clinch its eighth straight postseason appearance and remain in contention for the last twice-to-beat incentive in the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament.
The 22-year-old swingman came to the rescue in the end game and finished with 12 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, and three steals as the Blue Eagles survived hard-fighting University of the East, 69-66, at Mall of Asia Arena.
Ildefonso admitted he isn’t shooting well this season but has made sure not to let his offensive struggles discourage him from doing other things to help the Blue Eagles win–something he learned from coach Tab Baldwin.
“The whole season, really, it’s been really tough for me offensively, but as coach Tab taught me, especially with the Ateneo program, there’s more to basketball than points. There are the intangibles, the rebounds, assists, defense,” said Ildefonso after extending Ateneo’s win streak to four games.
“It was just really to help the team out because my shooting wasn’t working. Thankfully, the shots that I was able to take were the important ones, and the ones we needed. Hopefully, I can raise up the 21%, especially on three, because we’re a three-point shooting team. Just gonna put my head down and work,” he added.
Baldwin bared Ildefonso has the go signal to take shots as the go-to guy of the Blue Eagles, lauding the composure of his player despite his shortcomings on the offensive end.
“Dave’s instructed not to pass shots up. It’s not really his decision if he’s not feeling it or anything else like that. He’s a go-to guy in our team and in our program,” Baldwin said. “He does a good job playing through those emotional downs, particularly for young players when they’re not hitting shots. He just stays focused, he does his job, and we all know the quality of player Dave is.”
The Kiwi-American tactician is keeping his faith in Ildefonso, hoping his shots will drop especially in the Final Four round starting next week.
“They’re gonna drop. The days are gonna come when they start dropping, and it’s gonna be big for our team, and it’s gonna be a problem for other teams. I know the other teams know that too and they don’t leave Dave open. The respect is there for the player that he’s built himself into and I believe 100% that the results will follow,” Baldwin said.
Ildefonso also credited his teammates, especially Kai Ballungay, Ange Kouame, and Forthsky Padrigao for helping stave off the gritty Red Warriors.
But Ildefonso said they have to address their lapses, heading to their final game of the elimination round against defending champion University of the Philippines on Saturday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“As everyone knows how last season ended, ending in heartbreak. Always looking forward to going against UP, especially right now they’re No.1, and they probably have one of the best players in the country in Carl Tamayo,” he said. “They’re just a deep, deep team, and they’re all talented. When the odds are faced against you, you just want to fight, try your best, and try to bring down the giants. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
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