Eagles go for sweep, finals slot

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    IT’s obvious that coach Tab Baldwin of defending two-time champion Ateneo refuses to talk about how good the blue and white of Katipunan are this season.

    That ploy has done wonders for the Blue Eagles. So, why change?

    “Nothing changes. Next game is the last game. I understand that is a sweep or not a sweep but again, those are just minor issues for us. The major issue for us is how we play against UP. What are our tactics? What are our strategies? How do we execute? How do we anticipate what they might do?” said Baldwin.

    “There’s nothing else that enters into the equation for us, all the other talk is for you (media) and the fans. To be perfectly honest, we tune all that out. We do the best of our ability to tune all that out. And just stay focused on the job, it doesn’t change,” he added.

    Ateneo seeks an elimination round sweep rewarded with an outright finals slot when it squares off with University of the Philippines today in the 82nd UAAP basketball tournament before an expected SRO crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena.

    The highly-anticipated second round battle between last season’s finals protagonists is set at 4 p.m. after a pair of games pitting teams La Salle against Adamson University at 12:30 p.m. and University of the East and National University at 10:30 a.m.

    The Eagles are eyeing their 14th straight win that will enable them to advance to the Big Dance and leave the No. 2 Fighting Maroons, armed with a twice-to-beat advantage, third-ranked Far Easter University, and No. 4 University of Santo Tomas clashing in the stepladder semifinals.

    If UP manages to turn the tables on Ateneo, there will be a Final Four showdown.

    The Eagles handily beat the Maroons 89-63 in their first meeting last Sept. 28, a game where UP coach Bo Perasol was ejected and eventually meted a three-game suspension that was reduced to two games for charging at referee Jaime Rivano.

    The Eagles have not swept the eliminations, not even in their historic five-peat run from 2008 to 2012 under coach Norman Black.

    The last time Ateneo nearly swept the eliminations was in 2017 when it went 13-0 but lost to archival La Salle in the final game of the eliminations. The Eagles still wound up with the crown that year, beating the Ben Mbala-led Green Archers in the finals in three games.