Eagles lose title, gain lessons

Shawn Tuaño Ateneo Blue Eagles

Ateneo Blue Eagles’ Shawn Tuaño at the World University Basketball Series. WUBS PHOTO

TOKYO—Dethroned in the semifinals, Ateneo ultimately finished fourth in its defense of the World University Basketball Series championship after closing out with a second straight loss Sunday that looked far more impressive compared to the debacle the Blue Eagles suffered Saturday.

A 77-68 defeat at the hands of Radford University of the United States saw the Eagles play a lot better compared to a 15-point beating taken at the hands of Hakuoh University of Japan in the final four, as coach Tab Baldwin apparently pressed the right buttons to see his crew fight hard again.

Down by 23 points at one point in the third quarter against the Highlanders, the Eagles were able to make a game out of it by coming to within six a couple of times in the fourth only to fall because of a couple of bad decisions.

“This is why we play these tough preseason games, these tournaments, to get the opportunity to be taught lessons by our opponents,” Baldwin said as the Eagles brace for the final phase of their preparations to defend the UAAP Senior basketball crown. “You hope you can win while learning.

‘Fairly critical’

“But sometimes, it comes out the other way,” he added. “We have to be very critical of ourselves.”

Mason Amos scored 22 points and Kai Ballungay finished as the only other Eagle in twin digits against the Highlanders, a Division 1 NCAA squad that got bundled out also Saturday by National Chengchi University, the Taiwanese squad that Ateneo manhandled in last year’s final.

“I’m a fairly critical guy of ourselves,” Baldwin went on. “We didn’t shape up as the team that we can be.

“We just can’t say that we lost to a better team. You gotta believe that you are better in this world and we need to prove that we are better.”

The squad flies back home to Manila on Monday and coaching staff will most give players a couple of days off before returning to work. They fly out to Cebu later in the week for a three-day team-building session.

After that, Baldwin and his staff will wait for the literal final hour before submitting the final roster to the UAAP, a day he dreads every year.

Ateneo brought more than a handful of rookies to this trip, for their baptisms of fire and three of them—Shawn Tuaño, Lebron Nieto and Andrew Bongo—saw a lot of action and had their shining moments.

Joseph Obasa, who will take over from Ange Kouame as the school’s foreign student athlete, was big in the Eagles’ win against University of Sydney Friday but struggled in the two defeats.

And Baldwin is showing patience on his 6-foot-10 center because “he really loves to play and learn.”

Radford, meanwhile, got off to a hot start, building a 10-point lead after the first period and holding on the rest of the way. INQ

Chandler Turner tossed in 15 points, Kyle Burns and pint-sized guard Kenyon Giles scattered 14 each as six players finished in twin digits for the Highlanders. INQ

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