MANILA, Philippines – For the first time in seven games stretched across a five-year span, the Ateneo Blue Eagles lost to the La Salle Green Archers in a thrilling 83-78 finish last Sunday, October 9, in front of a 12,000-strong crowd at the Araneta Coliseum.
Jubilation spread through the green side as Schonny Winston broke down Ateneo’s defenses to the tune of a 25-point performance, inspired in part by head coach Derrick Pumaren’s reminder of how long their rivals have had their number.
On the other end, all Eagles were left feeling bluer than their school colors, with the lone exception of their mentor Tab Baldwin, who saw shades of terrifying red after the final buzzer.
Often a man of many words at post-game press conferences, the respected coach left a blanket of eerie silence as he gave just a few choice words about what needed to change with his team.
“Ask me after our next practice. Has to be fixed immediately. It’s not a process,” he said.
Pressed on whether he thought his players can respond to the challenge, Baldwin fired back: “It’s their job. They damn well better.”
All game long against La Salle, Ateneo showed chinks in their armor after numerous offensive boards – grabbed in large part by the front-court duo of Ange Kouame and Kai Ballungay – only led to unproductive possessions.
Despite the Eagles outrebounding the Archers, 63-41 overall and 36-13 on the offensive end, Ateneo ultimately faltered in the clutch as Winston capitalized on his teammates’ key stops with cold-blooded buckets.
“I guess being the way I am, I can’t help looking at my own team and understanding our deficiencies in this game, that I think were unnecessary, really. That’s probably what is more disheartening than actually losing the game,” Baldwin said.
“When you put up rebounding numbers like I’ve never seen in my life, 36 offensive rebounds, 55%, that’s extraordinary. With those kinds of numbers, we should rightfully expect the scoreline to look a lot different. It didn’t and I think we had issues with…let’s just call it self-imposed composure.”
Despite strong performances from Kouame and Ballungay, other core pieces fell flat with woeful shooting numbers, like Dave Ildefonso’s 3-of-14 shooting and Forthsky Padrigao’s 2-of-18 clip that only resulted in 7 points apiece.
Before heading to their next assignment on Wednesday, October 12, against the UST Growling Tigers, the Blue Eagles are likely facing a series of grueling practices to correct their mistakes.
As Baldwin put it, there is simply no more room for error.
“If we don’t fix that at this moment, then we can start looking at Season 86.” – Rappler.com