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MANILA, Philippines – For Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin, the Blue Eagles’ win over the UP Fighting Maroons hardly tipped the balance of power in UAAP Season 86.
Baldwin said UP remains the favorite even after Ateneo earned a hard-fought 99-89 overtime win, preventing the Fighting Maroons from sweeping the first round of eliminations on Sunday, October 22.
In a rematch of the Season 85 finals, the defending champion Blue Eagles squandered a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter but got the job done in extra period behind clutch buckets from fearless rookie Mason Amos.
“UP is still the team to beat in our league. We got by in overtime today, [but] if we played them tomorrow, we’re still underdogs to them,” said Baldwin.
“There is a level of belief that comes with having gotten past them once, but they can knock that out of you faster than you can imagine.”
Save for their first loss in Season 86, the Fighting Maroons have been the league yardstick as they won their first six games by an average of 14.7 points.
UP beat UST, Adamson, NU, and UE by at least 15 points then hacked out a pair of close wins over La Salle and FEU.
Ateneo, meanwhile, has been on a seesaw campaign as it alternated losses and wins in its first five games before it finally notched consecutive victories by crushing the Growling Tigers and slaying the mighty Maroons.
“I’m happy we’re the ones that knocked them off but they’ve done an awesome job getting to 6-0 with the league as tough as it is this year,” said Baldwin of UP.
“The job now for everybody is how well they’re going to get through the second round.”
Baldwin said the Blue Eagles should keep their focus on the bigger picture, which is to develop consistency as they shoot for a fifth championship in six seasons.
“You got to keep things in the context of the entire season and it becomes meaningless if we do not play good basketball and follow this up,” said Baldwin.
“This is a great sign for the development of our team, but… until we start showing consistency over more than just a couple of games, nobody should rest, nobody should feel comfortable.”
Ateneo ended the third round at third place with a 4-3 record, while the Maroons and the Bulldogs sit at first and second place with identical 6-1 cards. – Rappler.com