FIRST things first.
As his team nears an elimination round sweep rewarded with an outright finals slot in the 82nd UAAP basketball tournament, coach Tab Baldwin of defending two-time champion Ateneo insisted the Blue Eagles are not taking their foot off the pedal and have set their sights on their last two matches.
“No (thinking of a possible elims sweep). We’re just thinking NU. For any team in this position, things like undefeated seasons, sweeps, they happen because you take it one step at time, not because you make some grand statement about how good you are in front of a microphone,” said Baldwin.
“A parallel for me was I forever became a non-fan of LeBron James when he went to Miami and he said ‘let’s have a celebration party’ before they played the season because I thought. . . I didn’t think that he wasn’t capable of that. I thought that that set just a terrible precedent for everybody in sports,” he added.
Ateneo inched closer to reaching the Big Dance outright while relegating three other squads to the stepladder semifinals after ripping University of the East 84-50 last Sunday that hiked its record to 12-0.
The Eagles tackle National University this Saturday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum before ending their eliminations campaign with a rematch against last season’s finalist University of the Philippines on Oct. 30 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The last time Ateneo nearly swept the eliminations was in 2017when it went 13-0 only to lose to archival La Salle in the final game of the eliminations. The Eagles, however, still wound up with the title that year after they beat the Ben Mbala-led Green Archers in the finals in three games.
Baldwin is not looking far ahead for now.
“Sports is about performance, not about bragging about performance. So we’re very much focused on what our next performance is gonna be,” he said.
“Hopefully, when we step up against NU, we’ll be prepared for that game and they will be center of our attention and we’ll take care of business.”