With grand plans to reclaim the throne they lost a year ago, Ateneo de Manila High School instead finds itself in the bottom of the standings of the UAAP 79 Juniors Basketball Tournament.
After a season-opening win against University of Sto. Tomas, the Blue Eaglets have dropped all three of their games against Nazareth School of National University, Far Eastern University-Diliman, and Adamson High School.
Standing at 1-3, the kids from Katipunan are on the outside looking into the top four picture.
Coach Joe Silva, who led Ateneo to a championship in Season 77, was quick to admit that the three-game slump was unfamiliar territory for him. “As a coach, I’m not really familiar with this,” he expressed.
Silva made it a point to remind everybody, however, about two things he had been saying even before the season started. “Nagkataon na lumakas din lahat so yung schedule is really tough. And like I said before, this team is composed of 11 rookies so it’s really hard to instill yung sense of urgency,” he shared.
Indeed, among the 16 Eaglets, only team captain SJ Belangel, RV Berjay, Jason Credo, Carlos Gatmaytan, and Dave Ildefonso are holdovers from last season’s playoff outfit.
He was also quick to add, however, “Pero I’m not giving excuses. Laban lang kami nang laban.”
Silva is adamant that his youngsters are only starting to scratch the surface of their potential especially with the tournament just in its early stages.
The Ateneo coach said that they will only have to look to their big brothers in the Seniors division for inspiration. As he put it, “Yung Seniors team naman, sa start, medyo bata and it took time for them to mature. It’s happening also here.”
He then continued, “In due time. We’re learning how to get there.”
The Blue Eagles found themselves at 4-4 in the midway mark of their season before ringing off six consecutive victories and seizing the second-seed. And as Mike Nieto said, it took a shock loss to once bottom-feeder University of the Philippines to light a fire under them.
Team captain Belangel also believes that the Eaglets will soon take flight. “Mabuti nang natatalo kami ngayon and madami kaming natututunan kaysa sa huli kami matalo,” he said.
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