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La Salle battles Ateneo

  • Written by Theodore P. Jurado
  • Published in Basketball
  • Read: 249

Games today:

(Smart Araneta Coliseum)

12 noon -- UE vs. NU (M)

4 p.m. -- ADMU vs. DLSU (M)

ATENEO may have been peaking at the right time, but coach Sandy Arespacochaga knows that the Blue Eagles  have a long way to go in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament.

“Well, we still want to take it one game at a time. We don’t want to look ahead to the Final Four. We just want to stay focused and we want to  improve in each game,” said Arespacochaga, whose team is running third with a 6-4 slate.
   
“It may be cliché as it may sound but that is what we are doing in our team. We don’t want to look too far ahead,” he added.
   
It’s Ateneo’s turn to halt La Salle’s juggernaut as the league leaders, unbeaten in 12 matches, seek to move closer in clinching the outright championship berth as the biggest rivals in collegiate sports clash at 4 p.m. at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
   
In the curtain raiser, National University, tied with idle University of the Philippines in sixth place at 4-8, tries to keep its slim semis hopes alive against already eliminated University of the East at 12 noon.
   
Hoping to avenge their 81-97 loss to the Green Archers in the first round, the Eagles will enter the rematch as heavy underdogs as they try to become the third team to enter the semifinals.
   
There is a lot of anticipation on Aldin Ayo’s part, as the young coach will finally get involved in the La Salle-Ateneo rivalry.
   
Ayo missed the first round showdown against the Eagles last Oct. 2 as he was then serving a one-game suspension for charging at a referee with an eyeglass in the Archers’ 84-78 victory against the Red Warriors.
   
“Well, some of the guys are excited. Ako? I’m nervous eh. Gustong-gusto na kinakabahan ako. It’s my first time,” said Ayo.    
   
“It’s a different game. Well-coached team ang team na iyon and yung mga players sumusunod kay coach Tab (Baldwin). It’s La Salle-Ateneo, mawawalan ang standing doon, kung pang-ilan kami or pang-ilan sila.  Kapag rivalry, lalabas ang magandang laro,” he added.
   
The Archers are very much aware of the pressure of maintaining this perfect run as in 2002, it was the Eagles foiled the Taft-based cagers bid for a 14-0 elimination round sweep.  It was also the season that Ateneo ended La Salle’s four-year reign.
   
“Anything can happen,” said Ayo.  “Tinitignan natin na marami pa pwedeng mangyari, like UE in 2007, right? So hindi namin iniisip  iyon.”
   
Ayo knows history, as in that year, the Warriors jumped straight to the title round via an impressive 14-0 elimination round run, only to be swept by the Archers in the Finals.