ATENEO is out to prove the doubters wrong once again as the Blue Eagles look to wrap up an unlikely finals appearance in UAAP Season 79.
Finishing with a 10-4 win-loss record and gaining twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four is the culmination of the hardwork put in by a Blue Eagles side that was all but written off by most basketball observers after a tumultuous offseason.
Now they want nothing more than to prove the critics wrong.
“We just want to win for all the doubters out there na hindi nagtiwala sa amin,” said sophomore cager Mike Nieto. “We just want to prove them wrong.”
The Season 79 performance was quite surprising for the Blue Eagles considering the csituation they were in during the preseason. Ateneo not only was without Kiefer Ravena but also lost key players like CJ Perez, Arvin Tolentino, and Hubert Cani due to academic problems.
But the Blue Eagles rose to the occasion with Thirdy Ravena along with a host of players leading the way for the squad under first-year head coach Tab Baldwin.
Nieto, who moved up from Ateneo's successful juniors side, is one of those who stepped up as he averaged 8.3 points and 5.5 rebounds in the elims, mostly off the bench.
Another player who has been a revelation for Ateneo is Isaac Go, who stood out during a run of six straight victories including a win over La Salle - the Green Archers’ only loss of the tournament.
Go said the team had matured in many ways, allowing the Blue Eagles to hold their own against the best in the league, including La Salle.
“At the start of the year, people had us at five, counting us out in the Final Four,” said Go. “But right now, the team has grown so much that we can handle the best.”
For Ateneo to continue to surprise, the Blue Eagles need to get past defending champion FEU in a Final Four duel starting on Saturday. And they know is the playoffs is an altogether different story.
“It’s a start of a new chapter for our team,” Nieto said.
“You can’t count out FEU,” Go said. “Whether they are in the third-seed or the fourth-seed, they showed a lot of heart this season. Coach Nash (Racela) drilled into their minds that they won the championship by outworking the opponent so we have to work even harder.”