SHS-Ateneo raring to raise Cebu flag on Manila soil anew

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Mar 14, 2016 07:40 PM
SHS-Ateneo raring to raise Cebu flag on Manila soil anew
LEADING THE CHARGE. SHS-Ateneo is the only non-Manila school to be a legitimate contender in this year's NBTC League National Finals.

In the second day of the 2016 NBTC League National Finals, defending champion Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu sent out a statement that whoever wants their crown needs to take it away from them and them alone.

The Magis Eagles stamped their class on their opponents from start to finish and wound up winning by 61 points, 99-38, to end their group assignments with a spotless slate of 2-0.

With a rematch against San Beda High School, whom they downed for the crown last year, on the horizon, the win and their perfect performance in it seemed very much like a shot fired at the direction of the Red Cubs. Still, lead guard Jed Colonia downplayed their massive margin of victory by saying, “It’s not really a statement. We just played to our standards and it’s just normal for us.”

The defending champions’ response when asked about their mindset prior and during the tournament tells a different story, however. As coach Francis Auquico told ABS-CBN Sports, “Since last summer, we’ve been preparing for this tournament so we could at least compete with (the Manila schools). We really look forward to this tournament every year.”

He then continued, “We have CESAFI, pero we’re aiming for national talaga. Yun talaga ang (aim) sa program namin – to compete at the national level.”

Indeed, SHS-Ateneo is at the forefront of the uprising by the provinces who want to usurp the basketball power away from Manila. NBTC program director Eric Altamirano even used them and their championship win as the primary proof that the level of play in the provinces is already “very, very near” to the level of play in Manila.

Colonia said they want nothing more than to continue leading that charge. “We want to show the Manila teams na hindi lang kami nagdo-dominate sa Cebu, kahit dito sa Manila, kaya namin mag-compete,” he said.

Still, the Magis Eagles recognize that the climb remains to be uphill for them although they are the defending champions. “Nasa mindset pa rin namin na underdogs kami,” Colonia said.

Nonetheless, their mentor has full confidence that they can win it all once again. As he confidently put it, “Based sa pinakita ng mga bata nitong dalawang panalo namin, I believe we can win.”

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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