Eagles reassert might in college hoops, beat Lions for PCCL crown
The Ateneo Blue Eagles pose with their fifth PCCL championship trophy.
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Eagles reassert might in college hoops, beat Lions for PCCL crown
Rick Olivares (Philstar.com) - March 9, 2020 - 11:12am

MANILA, Philippines – Tested, defended for the first 32 minutes, the Ateneo Blue Eagles stamped its class over former NCAA rival San Beda, 57-46, to win the 2020 Philippine Collegiate Champions League title at the Filoil Centre in San Juan.

The Red Lions held Ateneo to five points in the third period as the NCAA runners-up overhauled their own nine-point deficit at the half for a 41-39 lead going into the final canto.

Right before the seven-minute mark, the starters — Angelo Kouame, William Navarro, and SJ Belangel returned to turn the tables on the Red Lions as they launched an 18-5 finishing kick to win back-to-back PCCL titles; their fifth overall. Furthermore, Ateneo won their 11th title in 11 consecutive domestic tournaments they have participated in since 2017. This 2019-20 season, they are 21-0, including their 16-game sweep of UAAP Season 82.

Quipped Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin, “I hope we can go 12-12.”

What can we say about this win?

This might sound like a boast, but the Blue Eagles once more won it with a depleted crew.
In last year’s PCCL UAAP-NCAA Showdown, they defeated San Beda literally shorthanded in three matches. During their round robin for the second match, they only had six players. By halftime, they had eight. Ditto for Game Three. In the finals, they crushed the University of Visayas’ Green Lancers, 95-71, that was Rey Suerte’s last before transferring to the University of the East.

This year, they once more pummeled UV — in the semifinals by an even bigger margin, 95-63!

This year, starting forward Dwight Ramos was not available with his right arm in a sling, as were Pat and Edward Maagdenberg. BJ Andrade is out with a season-ending knee injury. So Jason Credo slipped into the starting unit. Although he didn’t score, he grabbed five rebounds, had two steals, and an assist. But perhaps more tellingly, he stopped Red Lions star swingman James Kwekuteye, who shot a miserable 1-12 from the field and finished with four points.

Troy Mallillin is about to be unleashed. His freakish athleticism and confident demeanor have seen him play a bigger role on the team. He can score, play defense, and work that basket. At one point, with a highly unconventional unit on the floor, he was the man who could score. But I like that he is willing to subvert himself to the system which is why it led to a passing error instead of taking the shot. But he knows better and he is playing better. Watch out!

Aside from Troy playing well in the crunch, others also stood up and showed their championship pedigree. 

San Beda played great defense in the third quarter as they limited Ateneo to five points. The Blue Eagles returned the favor and held the Red Lions to five points in the final quarter as SJ Belangel came alive scoring all 10 of his points including that conventionalthree-point play and that dagger of a triple that broke San Beda’s backs.

Some say that this is now Belangel’s team. Maybe. He will definitely hit a lot of big shots. But they have some studs who will get that ball in the crunch. Dwight Ramos is possible one. As is Kouame. And the way Mallillin is playing, he will be huge for Ateneo’s campaign come Season 83 of the UAAP.

William Navarro shut down San Beda’s PBA-ready player, Calvin Oftana and scored on a huge drive.

Kouame, hounded by a triple-team almost all game long scored huge buckets off tip-ins. And at one point, he even pilfered the ball from San Beda’s Prince Etrata and drove in for a dunk — like when he did exactly the same to the University of Visayas’ court general George Cometa in the semi-finals. When you have a seven-footer taking away from a player much smaller than him then you know you are in trouble.

In the crunch, Ateneo closed down SBU’s Ralph Penuela, Oftana, Kwekutye, Peter Alfaro and Kemark Cariño, who played well in this game. 

This was a most impressive win against its fabled foe. It is Ateneo’s fifth PCCL crown; they are 11-for-11 in their last tournaments (the PCCL has a unique format with the UAAP-NCAA Showdown with the winner receiving a trophy that also advances them to the national finals where another trophy is at stake), and have a 21-match win streak dating back to this UAAP season and 24 overall counting last year’s PCCL.

ATENEO EAGLES LIONS SAN BEDA
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