Reminders on how the Ateneo Blue Eagles tackled their championship series with the La Salle Green Archers are in the back of coach Tab Baldwin’s mind.
The Eagles will try to recall their Season 80 finals’ showdown with La Salle when they face the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons in the deciding Game 3 of the 84th University Athletic Association of the Philippines men’s basketball tournament tonight at the Mall of Asia Arena.
It will be another tough showdown, according to Baldwin, as the Blue Eagles seek to stretch their reign to a fourth straight season in the last match of their best-of-three finals series at 6 p.m.
“The physical toughness of UP is very similar to the physical toughness of La Salle, the way they played physical defense. But UP is a really great rebounding team and this is such a big key, I think in winning championships, and statistically we’ve been a very very strong rebounding team this year as well,” said Baldwin.
Baldwin talked about their Season 80 finals in 2017, after the Blue Eagles fended off the Fighting Maroons, 69-66, in Game 2 last Wednesday to force the do-or-die clash this Friday.
In Season 80, Ateneo’s championship series with the Aldin Ayo-coached La Salle also went the distance, but the Eagles went on to bring home Ateneo’s ninth title.
“And I think they’re a better rebounding team than La Salle was. La Salle shot the ball a little bit better with (Aljun) Melecio, and (Andrei) Caracut, and these guys, were very very good perimeter players. But both series it just felt like you were in a fight, it felt like nothing was easy. There wasn’t an easy possession, and in all honesty, I’m a big Aldin Ayo fan, and certainly (UP coach) Goldwin (Monteverde) is making me a big fan of his as well, the way he coaches his team, and the way they’re playing in big moments. This is a high-quality coaching staff led by Goldwin, and nothing is easy like very much like the La Salle series, it’s tough, and if ever there was a flip of a coin, and this game three could be that,” added Baldwin.
Monteverde said he needs to remind the boys of being aware of the score and the time, noting of lapses when Ricci Rivero held on to the ball for too long in the final minute, but still managed keep the Maroons within range with his drive in the final 37.2 seconds and split charity in the last two seconds of action.
The Blue Eagles, who managed to lower their turnovers in Game 1 from 26 to 16 in Game 2, are expected to keep matters difficult for the Maroons, who seek to end a 36-year title drought.
Rookie of the Year Carl Tamayo who had 18 points, 12 rebounds, two steals, and a block in Game 2, is expected to be MVP Angelo Kouame’s biggest stumbling block under the boards once again.