Ateneo still happy with first-round showing despite loss to La Salle
MANILA, Philippines – It definitely did not end well, but overall, the Ateneo Blue Eagles are "satisfied" with how they performed in the first round of UAAP Season 79.
Speaking to the media following their blowout loss to rival De La Salle, both Blue Eagles forward Thirdy Ravena and coaching consultant Tab Baldwin echoed that sentiment.
"No one really expected us to finish [the first round] this way [at 4-3], but I'm glad that it turned out like this. [Although] it could have been better," said Ravena at the Mall of Asia Arena.
"Nothing we can do about it. Instead, work harder for the second round. Prepare more."
Baldwin, who was on the bench for the first time in an Ateneo-La Salle matchup, said following his team's early-season loss to NU that their campaign will be a roller-coaster ride. Five games later, and it's still a similar thought.
"I think anybody that probably understands basketball teams – or probably sporting teams – that players at this age, this collegiate age, and players particularly that are young, they understand they're going to have ups and downs," said Baldwin, who's also the head coach of the Philippine national basketball team.
"It's the nature of the beast. I'm actually pretty satisfied we're at 4 and 3 right now, and I didn't really start the season thinking we'd be two and 5 [or] 6 and one. I kinda said let's take it game by game, but it's disappointing we didn't play better today."
The Blue Eagles played the Aldin Ayo- and Jeron Teng-less Green Archers tight in the starting stretches of the contest. Both teams were tied at 20 following one quarter, and Ateneo even scored the first 6 points of the second period to go ahead 26-20.
But La Salle then went on a 21-3 run to take control of the game and cruise the rest of the way. DLSU forced ADMU to 30 turnovers – including 16 steals – and was led by the 28-point, 13-rebound, 5-steal performance by Ben Mbala.
"We prepared for them by trying not to give them offensive rebounds and [not] turning the ball over – because that's where they get most of their points – but kung ano yung trinabaho namin, 'yun din 'yung hindi namin nagawa, so medyo nakaka frustrate lang (what we worked on, that's also what we were unable to do, so it's frustrating)," said Ravena.
Baldwin added: "I think after the first 6 games I thought we would put up a better showing, but I have to give a lot of credit to La Salle. I think they looked better today than we've seen them look in other games."
Before entering the UAAP season, Ateneo lost 7 players due to academic issues, including former UAAP Rookie of the Year Arvin Tolentino and former NCAA star CJ Perez. In the Blue Eagles' third game of the season versus the FEU Tamaraws, the team also lost second-year scorer Aaron Black to a foot injury which has kept him out of action since.
But Ateneo remains in the Final Four picture at fourth place, and had it not been for a tough, Dawn Ochea game-winning jumper in their game against Adamson, the Blue Eagles would be 5-2 by now.
"It wasn't a good way to end the first round, but we just have to forget it," said Ravena. "Second round's coming up in a few days. We just have to prepare more. I'm just happy that we made it 4-3 and not anything lower than that." – Rappler.com