EVERY Ateneo-La Salle showdown in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament has always been a highly-anticipated event for supporters of both schools and college cage fans.
But for the rookie coaches of both teams, it’s just but another game.
The five-time champion Blue Eagles and Green Archers are looking for an early boost in their respective campaign as they clash against each other Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
More than asserting their mastery in what has of late been a one-sided rivalry, the Eagles are aching to break their two-game slide to start the season after suffering losses against National University and Far Eastern University following the sprained right ankle injury sustained by star guard Kiefer Ravena.
The Archers, meanwhile, will be aiming for their second straight victory after downing University of the Philippines the last time, 96-84.
Ateneo coach Bo Perasol, in his first season with Ateneo after taking over the coaching job from multi-titled Norman Black, said the Eagles are hungry to get out of a big hole that already matched their worst start during the 2003 season and marked their first back-to-back losing game since 2007.
“For me, I know that it (game) is important for the Ateneo community. But for me, it’s still going to be a game to win whoever the team is,” said Perasol. “We need that win to get our systems back again. I hope we can get a positive attitude come Sunday.”
La Salle counterpart Juno Sauler shares the same outlook as the Archers are eyeing to climb out of the middle of the pack.
“I’m not looking at wins and losses,” said the soft-spoken Sauler, who took over the coaching reins from now-Petron head coach Gee Abanilla. “I look at the team improving on a daily basis. Win or lose, there is pressure.”
Even though Ravena’s injury has been a big blow to the reigning champions, Sauler said the star guard’s absence still poses a problem for La Salle in terms of scouting.
“It’s hard to judge because Kiefer is not playing. It’s a different team without Ravena,” said Sauler.
Jeron Teng and Jason Perkins led the way for La Salle in their first win against the Fighting Maroons by scoring 20 points apiece.
Ryan Buenafe on the other hand, came up big for Ateneo in its 75-79 overtime loss against FEU on Wednesday, contributing 29 points and 15 rebounds — both career-highs.