COACH Aldin Ayo is hoping for a much-refreshed La Salle team when it faces bitter rival Ateneo in the UAAP men’s basketball championship opener starting tomorrow at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“We have the chance to correct all the mistakes that we used to do,” said Ayo before the Green Archers plunged into training Wednesday night right after the Blue Eagles clinched the other title round slot.
“May mga bad habits na nade-develop habang tumatagal ang season so ginamit namin ang mga araw na mahaba kung paano i-calibrate, i-align ’yung ginagawa nila sa sistema namin,” he added.
After a dominant first two months of the tournament, La Salle struggled against upstarts teams in November. The Taft-based squad lost to Ateneo, ending a 12-game winning streak and went through the wringer against Adamson in the Final Four before advancing in the Finals for the first time since winning it all in 2013.
The Archers’ only defeat of the season, a 71-83 decision to the Eagles, will serve as some sort of inspiration for Ayo to strive harder.
“Motivated kami. They took something from us. Hindi ko makakalimutan ’yung Nov. 5 na iyon eh,” said Ayo.
“Ito ang mga talo na feeling mo nawala sa iyo lahat eh. Sa La Salle kasi, grabe ang expectation. Although isang talo lang eh, pero feeling namin, nawala lahat,” he added.
“Sa basketball, dito ko nakukuha ang self-esteem ko. Dito ko kinukuha ’yung self-confidence ko. Ang kagandahan, feeling lang ’yun. Isang talo lang naman. We have our chance to redeem ourselves against Ateneo.”
Already a proven winner after steering Letran in one of the most improbable title runs in NCAA history last year, Ayo is giddy on being part of the biggest rivalry in collegiate sports.
In fact this is the first time since 2008 that the UAAP “Dream Finals” between the Archers and the Eagles will happen.
“Siyempre excited, hindi ko alam kung bakit eh. ’Yung first year ko sa NCAA, biggest rivalry ng NCAA, Letran and San Beda. Then ’yung first year ko sa UAAP naman, La Salle and Ateneo,” said Ayo.
The Archers, coming off a much-needed week-long break after eliminating the Falcons, went through an intense three-hour training Wednesday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Ateneo dethroned Far Eastern University, 69-68, in overtime to make its first championship appearance since completing a five-peat in 2012.