Coach Tab confident Ateneo is a better team compared to last year

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Nov 24, 2017 03:22 PM
Coach Tab confident Ateneo is better compared to last year
FLIGHT SCHOOL. Thirdy Ravena and the rest of Ateneo are all better versions of themselves now in their second straight Finals.

Ateneo de Manila University was defeated by Far Eastern University in the first game of their semifinals matchup.

And so, the top-seed had to duke it out again with the fourth-seed last Wednesday.

There, the Blue Eagles needed overtime to put away the pesky away.

And so, they only have three days to rest and then prepare for a best-of-three Finals series against defending champion and archrival De La Salle University – mind you, a De La Salle University that has had a whole week to rest and prepare.

More than the rest and preparation, the balance of talent also tilts to the Green Archers.

Even Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin says so. “It’s going to be tough. La Salle is the defending champion and they’ve got the MVP and they’ve got very good players,” he said.

He then continued, “If you look at it man for man, it’s a very big task for us.”

Indeed, the Taft-based team boasts of Ben Mbala, the soon-to-be back-to-back MVP, as well as another player tipped to be a Mythical selection in Ricci Rivero. Of course, Andrei Caracut, Aljun Melecio, Kib Montalbo, and Santi Santillan are also there.

However, like they have been preaching all season long, the Blue Eagles said they are well aware it will have to be everybody for them. “But we’re not gonna look at it man for man, we’re gonna look at our matchup as a team, the way that we’ve done it every game. We have to approach this as a team and figure out a way to get an upset over La Salle,” Baldwin said.

The boys from Katipunan had already done that back in the first round when they enforced their discipline to stymie their opponents’ “mayhem.”

That is exactly why unlike a year ago when they were swept by DLSU, Ateneo has a bigger belief in itself this time around. Asked about the difference from then to now, their mentor answered, “We’re a better team, it’s as simple as that. We’ve proven we’re a better team all year long and I think, apart from one big offensive lapse in a period against La Salle, we’ve proven we’re as good as they are.”

In the two teams’ second round meeting, the Green Archers used a big final frame to down the Blue Eagles and deny them an elimination round sweep.

Since then, however, Baldwin’s boys have only become more determined – especially after a character-defining series against the Tamaraws. As veteran forward Mike Nieto put it, “Lumalabas na rin yung character ng team namin. Losing two straight games and then winning a do-or-die game, nag-mature na rin kami.”

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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