THERE’S more to life than championships.
In the din of Ateneo’s celebration of its 16-0 season sweep last Wednesday night, Eagles coach Tab Baldwin had nothing but glowing words for his squad led by his five seniors, namely, three-time finals MVP Thirdy Ravena, twins Matt and Mike Nieto, Isaac Go, and Adrian Wong, who all ended their collegiate careers with a three-peat.
“You have to guard against arrogance. You have to guard against overstating what is something that is pretty exceptional. But it’s still a basketball game. It is still a basketball season and these men that I work with every day, they’re so much more than basketball players. They can make testimony themselves about that this season has meant to them but I’ll tell you this, it made me a better person. And working with these guys every day, it makes me a better person because of the quality of their character, because of the work rate that they have. It humbles me,” said Baldwin.
“Believe me, there are lots of nights that I go home and feel bad about the demands I put on these guys and sometimes the way I do it. I know I’m not always the nicest guy in the room. So, it’s very humbling when these men sacrifice their ego, they sacrifice their time.
What they don’t sacrifice is their love for the game. They lay it out there every day. I think this is the result of that,” he added.
Ateneo scored an 86-79 victory over a game but outgunned University of Santo Tomas in Game 2 of their best-of-3 titular showdown as the curtains fell on the 82nd UAAP basketball tournament.
The win, which came on the heels of Ateneo’s 91-77 drubbing of the Growling Tigers in the series opener last Saturday, enabled the Eagles to boost their status as one of the greatest teams in UAAP history.
Ateneo bagged its eight crown in the last 12 years and 11th overall; became the first team to complete two three-peats since the Final Four format was introduced in 1994; and became only the fourth team to complete an unbeaten campaign after University of the East (1969 and 1970), Far Eastern University (1976, 1980 and 1981), and UST (1993).
In front of 20,198 fans at the Mall of Asia Arena, the 6-foot-2 Ravena led the Eagles one last time with a game-high 17 points to go with seven rebounds and five assists in his swan song.
Ravena was named finals MVP for the third straight year with averages of 24.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 4.0 assists on 55 percent shooting from the field in the Big Dance.
Sophomore shooter SJ Belangel chipped in 15 markers on five three-pointers, while Matt Nieto added 14 markers, six boards, and five boards for Ateneo.
The Eagles will rely on the likes of 6-foot-10 Angelo Kouame of Ivory Coast, Belangel, William Navarro, Gian Mamuyac, and Tyler Tio in their hunt for a four-peat next season.