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Sports

The crown has fallen

Pio Garcia - The Philippine Star

ANIM-o won’t happen.

Karim Abdul and the rest of the UST Growling Tigers made sure of that as they bombed away in a 7-0 blast last Wednesday in the final quarter of their win-or-go-home setto with the Ateneo Blue Eagles.

But there is no time to wallow in that loss. It’s been a great run. We all knew that it would eventually come to an end. We all hoped it wouldn’t, but then again, bilog ang bola. All we can now do is take all the lumps and move on forward, one step at a time.

Do we have to shed bitter tears? Of course not. That would be a mighty disservice to the team. This is where the true fans really make themselves known. You know what goes into the Alma Mater song right? Win or lose, it’s the school we choose. Bandwagon fans wouldn’t understand this. Rabid “diehards” who don’t know how to appreciate basketball won’t even get this. But in this injury-plagued, suspension- and protest-filled season, I’d take this as a win for the Blue and White.

I knew it was going to be really tough especially if you lose your top two floor spacers in Greg Slaughter and Nico Salva. I knew it was going to be tough when we have to rely on Frank Golla and JP Erram to be our main rim protectors. I knew it was going to be tough when all the offense is going to come from the perimeter. In my head it was like, “patay kami nito pag hindi nahulog sa loob ng net kalahati ng mga jumpshot.” Why was that? Let’s just say the Blue Eagles have lost that second chance points punch that were a luxury five seasons ago.

But did I give up on them?

I never will. It’s something fans who got spoiled by the five-peat would never understand. Well, I hope they do understand. You can’t win every day. Sometimes you have to lose. But I must say, I’m mighty proud of how we lost last Wednesday. The boys never wavered as the referees tried to take control of the game early by rifling eight fouls alone on Chris Newsome, Aljon Mariano and Kevin Ferrer right before the first quarter hit the five-minute mark. They never hung their heads as Abdul continued to eat them up inside the paint en route to a huge 18-point bubble.

A lot of teams would have cowered behind that rack assault by Abdul and the way he built UST’s biggest lead by his lonesome, seemingly never running out of steam. I, admittedly, lost half my heart under that onslaught. Every time Abdul touched that ball, all I could do was shake my head and say “Momma, there goes that man.” But with the wonder of all wonders, Ateneo charged right through at the start of the second half. It’s something that got lost under the “kulang lang sa puso and energy” adjustment of one head coach.

But that was it. We were unprepared of sorts for that shellacking to start the fourth. Still, we leave with our heads unbowed, chins held high. No one can duplicate the success of a five-peat. The only team to come close, at the moment, is San Beda at the NCAA, where they are raring for a fourth-straight title.

It was good while it lasted.

Glad to have witnessed it in my lifetime. If ever, winning three straight in itself would be a feat for future UAAP titlists. And no, don’t put the Ateneo Way in this one, because if there’s an Ateneo way with all the championships racked up since 2006, it’s just one thing: winning.

We still have the PCCL coming up. In a way, that should be the bigger picture. Three (or was that four?) national titles. Nothing to scoff at either.

Ateneo will fight another day. See you in the PCCL if we’re lucky to have snuck in.

File your letters of complaint, clarification and protest to @PioVGarcia.

ABDUL ALJON MARIANO AND KEVIN FERRER ALMA MATER ATENEO ATENEO BLUE EAGLES ATENEO WAY BLUE AND WHITE BLUE EAGLES BUT I CHRIS NEWSOME
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