By NIKOLE JAVIER
Ateneo assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga said the Blue Eagles are putting extra effort in rediscovering the championship poise that won them multiple titles in recent years.
After five straight seasons of successful elimination round campaign and coming out as the top seed, the Blue Eagles refused to “get too caught up in being No. 1.”
Before pulling off the 66-61 victory over Adamson last Nov. 30, the highly contested match that saw Ateneo let go of its 15-point lead heading into the fourth quarter didn't sit well with the coaching staff of the Katipunan-based squad heading into the semifinals.
“Credit to Adamson, they played as if Final Four hopes were on the line, and it was. They needed to win to make sure that they enter the Final Four outright and credit goes to them. Our endgame composure, it’s good that we had endgame, we were composed but, of course, coach Tab is not too happy with the way they let go of the lead. That also shows that battle of composure," said Arespacochaga.
"And we let our guard down. And we’re for sure, we’re going to look at that and we’re gonna watch the tape and we’re gonna analyze that. Looking at the big picture, we don’t want that kind of a letdown, we played as if we were already twice-to-beat which we did not want to do. So, that’s something definitely that we’re gonna look at,” he added.
With the hunt for the last spot still on between Adamson and De La Salle, the top seed is hoping that the preparation time on its side will do wonders once the Final Four order has been decided.
“We all know that entering the Final Four, it’s a whole new ballgame and we’re gonna make sure that we don’t relax or let our guard down. And we have to be ready whoever wins Adamson or La Salle,” added Arespacochaga.
However, the Blue Eagles’ momentum could be collecting dust with the time off the court while the two Final Four-seeking teams play their crucial knockout match on Sunday, Dec. 4.
With this in mind, total rest will not be an option for the Ateneo side.
“Medyo matagal pa before we play them. So they have that advantage hopefully it will more be to our advantage rather than to them na nagkaroon sila ng isang crucial knockout game. But this really gives us an opportunity to rest some of our players,” concluded Arespacochaga.