MANILA, Philippines – Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin was all praises for his Blue Eagles squad after they gave the PBA’s incoming guest team Bay Area Dragons a tough tuneup fight at the Moro Lorenzo Gym in Quezon City last Saturday, August 20.
Although Ateneo dropped the friendly, 102-93, it was still a strong showing for a college team fighting against a professional squad featuring two ex-NBA players in Andrew Nicholson and Myles Powell.
“We knew it would be tough, a really good workout for us. Happy that they were competitive to the end,” Baldwin said. “We haven’t had many games, the competition in Japan was good but not at this level. We have a lot of holes, both offensively and defensively. We need to be tougher competitively.”
Against the sheer size and talent of the Dragons, the Blue Eagles were dwarfed on both ends, and went down by as many as 22 points in the second half.
However, Ateneo’s championship pedigree still showed as veterans Dave Ildefonso and UAAP MVP Ange Kouame led their comeback effort that ultimately just fell short.
Ildefonso paced the Eagles with 18 points, while Kouame – still recovering from a partially torn ACL – scored 14 in the loss.
“We got a lot of video work to do. We have to look at our system and see where they’re breaking down,” Baldwin continued.
“We can only try to do what we’ve been practicing to do and you need games to learn, particularly with young players, that what you’re doing isn’t working and the coaching staff can figure it out. But in order to make the adaptations and the adjustments, I’ve got to go through these game situations.”
As Bay Area continues its buildup for the PBA Commissioner’s Cup, Baldwin invited his good friend and Dragons head coach Brian Goorjian to consider more tune-ups with other UAAP teams to get more runs against Philippine squads.
“I said to Brian after the game, play some UAAP teams, go play UP, go play La Salle. They’re very competitive kids and competitive teams, and it’ll be good practice for them,” he said.
The off-season work will not stop as well for Ateneo as the Eagles will fly out to Israel to further fine-tune their chemistry before the UAAP Season 85 kicks off sometime this October.
“We need more offensive attacks, we need more defensive sophistication. So we’ll be doing a lot of practice in other systems and when we come back, I expect to be playing a lot of games,” Baldwin said.
Bay Area 102 – Nicholson 20, Powell 16, Yang 15, Blankley 14, Zheng 8, Ewing 8, Ju 6, Reid 5, Song 5, Lam 5, Zhang 0, Si 0, Zhu 0.
Ateneo 93 – Ildefonso 18, Kouame 14, Padrigao 12, Ballungay 11, Andrade 10, Obasa 8, Garcia 5, Fetalvero 5, Chiu 4, Koon 4, Lazaro 2, Quitevis 0.
Quarters: 29-17, 54-39, 84-64, 102-93.