- News in Photo
By JONAS TERRADO
The Green Archers knocked off the Blue Eagles, 79-72, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, making Ayo feel like he had hit the jackpot after becoming the first coach in history to win the NCAA and UAAP titles in back-to-back seasons.
Ayo’s move to La Salle, shortly after guiding Letran to a Cinderella NCAA championship, finally paid off, especially with his talent-laden squad submitting to the system that focuses more on a pressure defense that disrupt the opponent’s offensive flow.
“They just surrendered to the system and just played basketball,” Ayo said. “It was difficult at the start, especially sa unang league na sinalihnan namin, because hirap kaming manalo nun.
“Yun yung time na may adjustment period, yung nagaadjust sila sa very different system compared last year na free-flowing kayo, iba yung mismatches.
“This time, we put schemes, we prioritized defense. Pero my first meeting with the players, galling sila sa talo, nakita ko na eto babawi mga ‘to kasi unang meeting nagsalita sila na gagawin lahat kung anu meron, kaya sabi ko, eto yung tamang oras na iimplemetn yung sistema na very demanding.”
Jeron Teng, who ended his collegiate career on a memorable note with 28 points and the Finals Most Valuable Player award, said that it took time for them before they were able to execute the system with little hitch.
“Medyo nahirapan kaming mag-adjust because in my first four years with La Salle, we weren’t pressing at all,” Teng said. “Pero kasi ang motto kasi namin right from the beginning is ‘Whatever it takes’, so yun sumunod kami sa sistema at nag-sama-sama para mag-champion.”
Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin expressed cautious optimism for next season after his Blue Eagles came up short against the archrival La Salle Green Archers in the UAAP Finals which ended Wednesday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The young Blue Eagles became the unexpected finalists after winning six straight games at the end of the elimination round coupled with a dramatic victory over the Far Eastern University Tamaraws in the Final Four.
But inexperience coupled with the Green Archers displaying the form that won them all but one game this season, forced the Loyola dribblers to settle for a runner-up finish and bright future come 2017.
“Obviously, from the outcome of this team, the future looks very bright with the very bright group and significantly high accomplishments this year, but at the same time, if we don’t come in next year thinking what our weaknesses are and what we have to improve, then we’ll probably go backwards,” Baldwin told reporters after the game.
“The test is not to live up to this year, but the test is to live up to our potential. That’s where we’ll try to keep our focus, we’ll try to be player-focused and help our players become the right sort of young men and basketball players to win championships, but it starts with them.”
Little was expected from Ateneo after Kiefer Ravena ended his decorated collegiate career followed by the appointment of Baldwin in a role unusual to his status as former mentor of the New Zealand national team and Gilas Pilipinas.
The Blue Eagles struggled in the early goings, going 4-3 in the first round that saw them lose 96-81 to the Green Archers.
A stunning defeat to the University of the Philippines Maroons to open the second round set the stage for the Blue Eagles to raise their games.