Ateneo vows to stay focused amid talk of UAAP 82 elims sweep

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Oct 26, 2019 06:05 PM
Ateneo vows to stay focused amid talk of UAAP 82 elims sweep
(Photo by Arvin Lim)

ANTIPOLO - Ateneo de Manila University is on the verge of making school history in the UAAP 82 Men's Basketball Tournament.

With one more win, having to come at the expense of the University of the Philippines on Wednesday at MOA Arena, the Blue Eagles will complete a clean sweep of the elimination round and clinch an automatic advance into the Finals.

That would be a first in the history of a powerhouse program which has won seven of the league's last 11 championships.

And of course, the current crop of players could not help it when they think about making school history. "Kami naman, mindset lang namin lagi is next game lang - and that's UP," Matt Nieto shared.

He then continued, "Pero siyempre, mahirap naman sa amin na 'di namin isipin yun kasi lahat, yun sinasabi e. Sweep ganito, sweep ganyan."

The closest Ateneo has come in completing a clean sweep of the elims was back in 2011 when it still paraded a lineup featuring the likes of Greg Slaughter, Kirk Long, and Kiefer Ravena.

They, however, just fell short as they dropped their last assignment of the elims.

Fast forward to now and Blue Eagles mentor Tab Baldwin made it clear that, actually, they want to put that far from their minds. "Nothing changes for us. I understand that is a sweep (is in play), but again, those are just minor issues for us," he shared.

He then continued, "The major issue for us is how we play against UP. There's nothing else that enters into the equation for us."

Indeed, true to form, the brilliant tactician wants nothing more than to treat their next game as just another game - even though it's up against last year's Finalist Fighting Maroons and even though history is at stake for them. As he put it, "To be perfectly honest, we do the best of our ability to tune all that out and just stay focused on the job. We're excited about that game, but we were also excited about playing today."

And so, as history beckons, the defending champions know full well they can't lift their feet off the gas pedal. "I think our biggest problem is gonna be complacency. Especially at 13-0, it's a trap for us to relax and let our guard down," Thirdy Ravena said.

He then continued, "We have to make sure we pick each other up kung ano pang kulang namin. Sa practice, kung nakikita naming we're not working as hard, we push each other."

After all, greatness is within reach for Ateneo - and though they prefer not to talk about it, greatness is what they have always been gunning for. "Matagal nang walang nakaka-sweep sa UAAP and that’s the goal from the start - win as many games and wag matalo," Nieto said, full of confidence.

He then continued, "We learned na rin naman from the 13 games we had and hopefully, magamit namin yung going into UP and then going into playoffs."

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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