It’s been a while since I watched a live basketball game. I can’t even remember the last time I did. Even when the Ateneo junior basketball team, anchored by the stellar trio of Kiefer Ravena, Von Pessumal and Paolo Romero, was on its way to winning its third straight title last year, I was cheering it on in the confines of the faculty workroom. This time, I decided that I would be there to cheer on our players.
Last Tuesday, the Ateneo Blue Eaglets, vying for its fourth straight title, were fighting for survival against the FEU Baby Tamaraws, trying to get past the Baby Tams’ twice-to-beat advantage. Having won the first Final Four match, the Blue Eaglets were hoping against hope to make it back to the Finals.
When I entered the Blue Eagle Gym to watch the game, it appeared as if the Eaglets were well on their way to accomplishing that feat, as they had a commanding 19-6 lead in the first quarter. Bolstered perhaps by the presence of the student body, the Eaglets played great offense, and held the Baby Tams down with a pressuring defense.
However, FEU managed to find its bearing, and managed to go into the locker room, having cut Ateneo’s lead to seven points.
In the second half, FEU opened up with guns blazing, and, coupled with a stifling defense that caused the Eaglets to turn the ball over again and again, the Baby Tams managed to grab the lead somewhere in the middle of the third quarter.
It was a lead that they would not relinquish again. The Eaglets, confounded by the Tams’ defense, were unable to get anything going, and, as their offense sputtered, the Tams continued to play excellent defense and offense down the stretch. The Blue Eaglets’ last hurrah was a sprinting, driving layup by junior Mark Gamboa that caught the Tams sleeping, and cut the lead down to five points, which was the closest that Ateneo got down the stretch. FEU closed out the game strong, and won by 7 points to propel them to the Finals, where they will face the NU Bullpups, who had earlier managed to overcome De La Salle-Zobel’s twice-to-beat advantage.
Still, it wasn’t a bad season for the Blue Eaglets, even if they were unable to defend their title. At the start of the season, I was talking to a more knowledgeable co-faculty, who had predicted that the Eaglets would have a hard time getting back to the Finals. Having taken their season this far is accomplishment enough for an Ateneo team that wasn’t expect to strongly contend.
What I liked about the end of the game was that the fan base, mainly composed of our high school students, continued to show strong support for the team by singing the alma mater as lustily as they could, showing that, true to form, “win or lose, it’s the school we choose!” So, there’s next year to look forward to, and here’s hoping that the Blue Eaglets who will remain for next year’s season will take the lessons from this loss to heart, and come out strong for next season.