Ayo-Baldwin 'rematch' in PCCL opener turns out to be a bit of a mismatch
NCF coach Brian Ayo, far right, takes pride in having coached a game against veteran international coach Tab Baldwin of Ateneo. Clems Dela Cruz

AN Ayo-Baldwin rematch wasn't expected to take place this early.

But there they were, Ayo and Baldwin calling the shots from opposite benches again, just a few months after crossing swords in the Ateneo-La Salle finals in UAAP Season 80 last December.

This time, though, it wasn't Aldin but a Brian Ayo pitting coaching wits with Tab Baldwin as the Blue Eagles breezed to an 84-69 win over Naga College Foundation at the start of the Philippine Collegiate Champions League (PCCL) Elite Eight on Thursday at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.

Ayo claims to be a distant relative of Aldin Ayo, who also hails from Bicol. He felt like he was thrown in at the deep end when NCF won the Luzon qualifiers of the PCCL and immediately got pitted against Baldwin and the reigning UAAP champions.

Still, the NCF side gave a good account of itself. The squad were actually in the game up until the final minute of the third quarter, before losing stream in the final stretch while the Blue Eagles stepped on the gas with their pressure defense.

Incidentally, Ayo and his NCF players were also in green.

“Nakapasok rin naman sa game plan to pressure Ateneo, give them the defense they can give, pero shooters talaga sila e. Mahirap bantayan talaga. They fielded four guards who can shoot and a stretch five. We just adjusted. Nag-collapse lang talaga, sayang. One point,” rued Ayo.

“Na-prove lang namin na we can match Manila teams if we work harder,” he added.

Their effort was later praised by Baldwin, who beat Aldin Ayo in a thrilling finals that went the distance before the latter left La Salle to coach University of Santo Tomas.

“They competed, ” Baldwin said. “They’re quick, they got good athletes, they play hard. They just lack experience and you can tell sometimes. In the second half we pressured and we saw a few turnovers there and got fastbreaks.”

Ayo, 30, takes pride in having coached in a game against the former Gilas Pilipinas coach.

“Memorable. Maghahanap nga ako ng picture na nasa magkabilang pwesto kami nakatayo e. Maghahanap ako diyan,” said Ayo with a smile.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @CAJacinto11