February 25, 2018, 9:59 am
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‘Eagles have to rediscover themselves’

THE Ateneo quintet that nearly completed an eliminations sweep was nowhere to be found, its lethal form and confidence gone, when it faced an inspired Far Eastern University five last Sunday.

Instead of arranging a best-of-three title showdown with defending champion La Salle, the Blue Eagles got a big reality check, dropping a 67-80 decision to the suddenly lethal Tamaraws at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The loss meant the Blue Eagles need to get back at the Tamaraws on Wednesday to advance to the finals but coach Tab Baldwin said that will only happen if his charges can lick their wounds fast and rediscover who they are.

“I think there is something there, I can feel it myself as a coach so we have to accept the humility of the scenario, we have to get back to understanding what we do well, and sort of rediscover who we are. It’s there, there’s no question that it’s still there,” said Baldwin.

With the massive upset win, FEU forged a knockout tiff at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay, with the winner forging a best-of-three finals showdown with defending champion La Salle starting this Saturday.

The Green Archers clinched the first finals slot after turning back Adamson 82-75 in their semis duel last Saturday.

The defeat was the second straight for the Eagles, counting their heartbreaking 76-79 defeat to arch-rival La Salle last Nov. 12 that denied them a sweep of the elims.

Baldwin, who took over at the Ateneo helm last year and guided the team to a bridesmaid finish in his first year, gamely admitted his charges’ confidence went down partly because of their loss to the Archers.

“Out there, late in the second half when I knew we weren’t going to come back and win that game, I was thinking to myself, ‘Gosh I haven’t been in this mode of thinking in a long time.’ You know, over a year. And for our players, probably, the same thing,” said Baldwin.

“I think our confidence kind of went down. I hate to see that because with young kids you don’t ever want to see their confidence erode a little bit.”

Baldwin, 59, tipped his hats off to the Tams and pointed to the Eagles’ inability to make their shots and pourous defense that did them.

“I think FEU played real well. They had a good game plan, we shot the ball just abysmally. We had open shots particularly in the first half, and we didn’t hit them,” Baldwin explained.

“Our defense seemed to lack the last 10 percent of effort that it needs to have an impact on a good offensive team and tonight FEU was a good offensive team.”

Baldwin said for Ateneo to keep alive its bid to reach the Promised Land for the first time since 2012, his charges need to figure out how they did well in the eliminations.

“I thought we played like a young team, and we shouldn’t. Yes, there’s youth there, but we’ve been together long enough and we shouldn’t play like a young team. We have to figure it out,” he said.

“They (Eagles) have a successful season to fall back on in terms of looking for confidence. So really, it’s about the coaching staff giving these players a message, something specific that they can look at and say, ‘Yes, we can do that.’ And go about doing it.”
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