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Eagles seek return trip to UAAP finals

By: Jerome Lagunzad

Expectations are soaring high these days around Katipunan since traditional powerhouse Ateneo is plunging back into the UAAP Season 80 men’s basketball action with a solid core that powered the Blue Eagles to a surprising finals appearance last year.

Even without shifty wingman Adrian Wong who is still recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury he sustained early this year, the Blue Eagles are tipped to make another serious title run with the return of vital cogs Aaron Black, Isaac Go, Vince Tolentino, Matt Nieto and Thirdy Ravena, younger brother of former two-time UAAP league MVP Kiefer.

Former NCAA juniors MVP Troy Mallillin and touted guard Tyler Tio are expected to make an immediate impact while fellow recruits, Batang Gilas standout Gian Mamuyac and Blue Eaglet standout Bryan Andrade, can make their presence felt, giving the Blue Eagles the needed depth and firepower.

However, Ateneo’s long-time assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga refuses to be swayed that easily.

“I think the main challenge for us is how we are going to improve as the season goes along,” he said in a recent interview. “We’re not resting on our laurels thinking that we’re just one step closer. We don’t want to fall into the trap thinking that it will be an automatic for us to be in the finals again.”

While he admitted that Ateneo caught many by surprise with its strong showing in Season 79 that ended in a two-game sweep at the hands of archrival La Salle in the finals, Arespacochaga, 42, is bracing for a tougher grind against a vastly-improved UAAP field.

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