Bruised, aching Eagles pull off something no other team has done in season
Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Nov 05, 2016 08:48 PM
FIRST-TIMERS. Ateneo is now the one in DLSU's 12-1 win-loss record.
For their first dozen games, De La Salle University has looked like juggernaut marching forward towards what-would-be a historic championship in the UAAP 79 Men’s Basketball Tournament.
In their penultimate matchup, however, the Green Archers finally met their match.
As they have always done, Ateneo de Manila University willingly spoiled whatever plans their longtime archrivals had with an 83-71 win. “La Salle’s still the number one team, but I guess that’s the beauty of this rivalry. In Ateneo-La Salle, standings don’t matter,” a satisfied coach Sandy Arespacochaga expressed after their conquest.
Not only was it surprising that the Blue Eagles became the first team to down erstwhile perfect DLSU, it also came as a shock that the rivalry game was never as close as the final score made it seem. Even Thirdy Ravena had to say, “It’s crazy. We didn’t expect to play like that pero swerte rin kami na na-pull off namin.”
No one player in particular starred for Ateneo, but their team effort proved to be more than enough to overcome their once seemingly invincible archrivals.
According to Arespacochaga, it all began with defense. As he put it, “We wanted to make sure that no matter what happens, we have to play good defense.”
Indeed, the Eagles limited DLSU’s league-leading offense to a season-low in points. Ben Mbala, Jeron Teng, and company had averaged 90 points per game before only mustering 71 in this one.
The disciplined defense then translated into controlling the boards – something that the Archers, with Mbala, always had in their corner. “They really put the effort in. They battled La Salle on the boards and it’s not a very easy thing to do,” Arespacochaga said.
He then continued, “My players have bruises and their bodies are aching, but credit to them because they really put the effort in.”
At the other end, Ateneo did not allow Aldin Ayo’s “mayhem” to sink it teeth in by moving the ball. “We had 20 assists so, of course, that helped,” Arespacochaga said.
That ball movement led to four Eagles ending in double-digits led by Aaron Black who turned in his best game of the season with 16 points. Nothing but appreciative of what they saw from their wards, head coach Tab Baldwin said, “I don’t think anyone let us down today. Everyone came out to play.”
For their part, the players deflected all credit back to their coaches. “It’s all because of the coaching staff that we were able to prepare well for La Salle. La Salle is, I don’t even know how to describe them,” Ravena said.
He also added, “They probably gave me the hardest game of my life, but we were just lucky that we stuck to what coach Tab told us.”
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