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Analyzing the Ateneo Blue Eagles' World University hoops title conquest

Rick Olivares - Philstar.com
Analyzing the Ateneo Blue Eagles' World University hoops title conquest
The Ateneo Blue Eagles at the World University Basketball Series in Japan
Facebook / Smart Sports

MANILA, Philippines — The Ateneo Blue Eagles were crowned the first ever champions of the World University Basketball Series when they found their groove then survived a spate of ghastly turnovers in the endgame for a 68-59 win over Tokai University of Japan.

In a virtual battle of the birds — the Blue Eagles defeat the Universitas Pelita Harapan Eagles, the National Chengchi University Griffins, and lastly, the Tokai University Seagulls.

The Blue Eagle is truly the king.

It is a victory that comes with a lot of things to be learned by this new jack Ateneo team.

First and foremost, one has to credit Tokai for being a sterling opponent that never gave up and played to the final whistle. And they were also physical. Not as much as the UAAP teams, but good enough to throw off a finesse team. 

We can say that Ateneo went from almost the full range of game conditions — from a blowout win against the Eagles, to a come-from-behind win versus the Griffins, and a game of runs against the Seagulls.

And Tokai played superb defense in the first period where they forced Ateneo farther out than where they would like to set up their offense. The teams of the last few years were good even with the shot clock winding down, but this one isn’t. Yet.

The ball would stay in the hands of one or two players and by the time they did something about it, they were under duress. I thought that they didn’t get to play the style they wanted because Tokai’s defense dictated the game.

And yet, even if Ateneo was unable to score, their defense held as the Seagulls weren’t ahead by much. But Ateneo did adjust and play better. 

It was in the fourth period where Ateneo found its footing. When they strung up consecutive shots, it allowed them a bit of breathing space. Furthermore, they answered the big shots of the Seagulls with one of their own such as Dave Ildefonso’s triple. 

The Blue Eagles found a way to win when most of their players did not perform well, when there were some spotty calls against them (not much but there was just this stretch where there were back-to-back bad calls), and when there was an opportunity for Tokai to rally. 

They need the point guards — Forthsky Padrigao and Paul Garcia — to rally the team and take charge. Especially that stretch where they had four consecutive turnovers with three of them coming from Josh Lazaro as they could not bring down the ball. 

The upside from the turnovers is they also got it back. Lazaro showed some moxie when in the face of the mounting pressure, he scored big shots. The same with Dave Ildefonso, Padrigao, and Garcia. That is the way you bounce back from a mistake. 

If you look at Tokai especially early in the game, they didn’t have too much trouble breaking down what was a token press.  

The talent and skills are there. It’s the mental aspect which is in question. We saw those horrible turnovers in the recent UAAP finals that cost the series. 

And I have questioned how they defended last season because I thought they would pack the lane and leave the outside open. They would scramble to rotate and they were often late. UP hurt Ateneo with that. And we saw it again against Tokai. 

Having said that, experience though is the best teacher. 

Gio Chiu played well. I have to like the movement but it is where he plants himself when going out that he needs to figure out because he got burned on several occasions. Same thing with Joseph Obasa. Nevertheless, you have to like the upside. They have so much promise along with the team. 

Here too is what is key — the Ateneo Blue Eagles experienced what it takes to win. They know there are holes to fill and things to work on. But they know the feeling of winning especially for a young and inexperienced team. 

Now, that is something good to build upon.

Congratulations on a deserved title!

ATENEO BLUE EAGLES

BASKETBALL

UAAP

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