Earning Every Inch: The Blue Eagles have closed the gap on the Green Archers

Last year, in Game 1 of the Season 79 UAAP Finals, Thirdy Ravena found himself isolated versus a defender. There was time on the clock to make a move. But then, he forced the issue and ended up committing a careless turnover. The move was branded as immature. A showcase of the youth of the Blue Eagles and highlighted how far they were from the dominant Green Archers

This season, Ateneo has been called by many as the most mature basketball team in the league. They make the correct plays, and have shown the capability to make good decisions on the fly whenever their initial actions are cancelled out. They are methodical. Some have even gone as far as to say that they are the San Antonio Spurs of the UAAP.

With a little over 20 seconds left last night, Thirdy Ravena found himself isolated from way out against a La Salle defender. Ateneo was down by one with enough time to still grab the lead. It looked eerily similar to last year. Ravena started to move to the left, which may then signal that he was going to step back for a jumper (Jump shot game winners are so much better than lay-ups). Instead, he drove right, then spun towards the left only to be met by four La Salle defenders. Ricci Rivero blocked his shot, and La Salle regained possession.

As Ravena and the rest of the Blue Eagles started to make their way towards the bench after that play, fans from the Ateneo gallery started to think, “Have Blue Eagles really grown up?” Everyone has said time and time again that Ravena and the Blue Eagles have matured, knowing how to use their physical tools to their advantage during games. They play as a team, playing off each other to make things easier for everyone.

But in that one moment, the concept of team basketball vanished. “Immature,” some fans said. “Di pa natuto from last year.” If the Blue Eagles had given up at that play, you wouldn’t have blamed them. Seeing their best player get blocked like that must have been demoralizing. Instead, Ateneo did the opposite.

Coach Tab has always believed in a “next man up” mentality, something that can be seen with how he handles his players. For this instance, they had to believe in a “move on to the next play” mentality.

They couldn’t let Ravena’s error get to their heads. Instead, they focused on Coach Tab’s defensive scheme and followed to the T. Beacuse of that they got the stop they so badly needed. They should have gotten that stop.

UAAP

Coach Tab would have likely said it’s their job as basketball players to make the correct play. There is merit in that argument. But let’s consider all of the factors coming into that play. What they did was dangerous. Matt Nieto could have very well been called for a foul if he wasn’t careful. That’s the thing with applying pressure. It could end up as a diamond or with wrong usage, will give you coal.

(WATCH: Where were you when LA Tenorio dropped 30 points in the Finals against DLSU?)

Last year, the Blue Eagles were put in a pressure situation and they couldn’t deliver. Coal. This time around, they managed it better and they came up with a diamond of a win to sweep the first round.

This wasn’t the victory which put Ateneo over the top against La Salle. Far from it. The Green Archers are still the favorites to win the championship. They are a team overflowing with talent, with a player who no one in the league can stop. The fact the La Salle was able to take a knockout punch from Ateneo and keep pushing forward is a testament to how good the Green Archers are.

The win of Ateneo showed that they are starting to close the gap between them and La Salle. They aren’t doing so with talent. They’re doing so by playing “the right way”, and showcasing maturity which they didn’t have in the previous season. There are still issues to be fixed. But the Blue Eagles are willing to learn from their mistakes and focus on getting better with every play. It’s a game of inches and every inch they earn gets them closer to the championship they’re all working for.

(READ: How I learned to love the Ateneo-La Salle rivalry)

Leave a Reply

*