The Ateneo Blue Eagles gave it their all, and, yet, it still wasn't enough.
The UST Growling Tigers emerged triumphant in its knock-out game against Ateneo, and won 82-74 to complete this season's Final Four cast. The Ateneo loss ends two streaks: its 14-year Final Four appearance run, and its 5-year championship streak.
Still, it can't be said that the Blue Eagles didn't give it their all. In yesterday's game, Ateneo managed to keep the game close until the final minutes, but it just wasn't enough as UST played hard all game, adjusting to the Blue Eagles' offensive strategies. In the end, UST prevailed, and Ateneo fans are left with the "What ifs" in assessing this year's 7-7 record.
What if Kiefer Ravena were healthy throughout the season?
What if Coach Bo were not suspended for the second game? (This is not a knock on Coach Sandy Arrespacochaga, who took over the reins in Coach Bo's absence. I'm focusing on the fact that the suspension controversy was an unnecessary distraction to the coach and to the team.)
What if the team were complete and healthy throughout the season? (A number of players were injured over the course of the season.)
Of course, these are all speculations. The bottom line is that Ateneo will not be in the Final Four this season, and team officials will be evaluating this season's performance in order to improve for next season.
Ateneo will be saying goodbye to yet another batch of its championship era members, as players Frank Golla, JP Erram, Juami Tiongson, and Ryan Buenafe will all be graduating from the team after this season. Ateneo will have to do some serious recruiting to make up for their absence, and will have to hope that those remaining will be able to step up next season.
The team doesn't have anything to be ashamed of, in not making the Final Four. They dealt with adversities, and managed to stay competitive despite these until the very end of the elimination round. In doing so, they demonstrated the fighting spirit that is expected of Ateneans.
Kudos to the Ateneo Blue Eagles men's basketball team for fighting the good fight, and, hopefully, the team will come back stronger next year.
One Big Fight!