Ateneo fends off Japan U21 selection in friendly ahead of World University tilt

Coach Tab Baldwin and Ateneo Blue Eagles during a friendly game against a Japanese U21 selection team

Coach Tab Baldwin and Ateneo Blue Eagles during a friendly game against a Japanese U21 selection team. –MUSONG CASTILLO

TOKYO—Ateneo kept its big guns in the veritable cabinet in playing an Under-21 selection from Japan Thursday night, and the equally young Blue Eagles carried the torch well enough in carving out a 70-69 victory in a prelude to their World University Basketball Series title defense at Yoyogi National Stadium gym here.

Josh Lazaro scored on a two-handed slam coming from the right baseline to make it 70-64, before the Blue Eagles held fort defensively to pull it out despite going scoreless the rest of the way.

It was a great way for the Blue Eagles to warm up for the WUBS proper with four of their top players rested by coaching staff.

The Eagles returned to the locker room for the halftime break sitting on a 38-31 lead, an edge they rebuilt by finishing the second quarter strong.

Obasa and Amos threw their weight around against the smaller Japanese, with Obasa, a one-and-done talent who will see his only UAAP action starting next month, having at least two blocks and two dunks in the first two periods.

Obasa led the Blue Eagles with 17 points and 15 rebounds, while Arien Shawn Tuano and Lebron Nieto added 12 points and 10 points, respectively.

Jared Brown was a steadying presence at the point for Ateneo, which is searching for its next great point guard this coming season with Forthsky Padrigao leaving the teams because of academic deficiencies and a pressing personal matter he has to attend to. Brown registered six points and five assists.

With Baldwin to make two cuts before the UAAP season, every player that he tapped for action against the young Japanese went out to prove themselves.

Nieto and Ian Espinosa were the other point guards that Baldwin used.

“There are no shoo-ins in this team,” Baldwin told the Inquirer before the game as decision time nears for him and his staff. “They will all have to work their way into the roster.”

Baldwin sat out Kei Ballungay, Chris Koon, Gab Gomez, Geo Chiu and two others, giving them the day with the Eagles to slug it out with University of Sydney Friday to open defense of their title here.

Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin after the Blue Eagles’ 79-69 win over an Under-21 selection from Japan in Tokyo ahead of their World University Basketball Series title defense. | Musong Castillo/INQUIRER Sports

Posted by Inquirer Sports on Thursday, August 10, 2023

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