Tab Baldwin's worst fear comes true as Ateneo shows lack of killer instinct in Game Two
Tab Baldwin tried to keep his players focused as the Blue Eagles faltered in the face of a fierce Green Archers comeback. Jerome Ascano

ATENEO coach Tab Baldwin has long admitted that he's not a fan of big leads for his team, and his biggest fear came true in Game Two of the UAAP Season 80 Finals on Wednesday.

The Blue Eagles failed to protect a 21-point deficit, collapsing in the second half to bow to reigning champion La Salle, 92-83. The win extended the series to a Game Three on Sunday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

“Absolutely,” said Baldwin when reporters asked if he was still worried about keeping a huge lead. “Big leads scare the hell out of me. Big leads, especially in the first half, scare the hell out of me.”

Baldwin, a former Gilas Pilipinas mentor and a veteran in the international scene, knows too well that keeping big leads is easier said than done, admitting the Game Two loss was a bitter pill to swallow for the Blue Eagles.

“It was tough because we had a big lead. I’m a coach that hates big leads. It sounds ironic but in today’s world, I think young people don’t have killer instinct, and I see it over and over and over in basketball leagues all over the world," said the Ateneo coach.

"Big leads seem to drain and momentum swings the other way, and it’s tough to swing momentum back. We suffered from that today,” added Baldwin.

The Ateneo coach also commended La Salle and its coaching staff led by head coach Aldin Ayo for their masterful come-from-behind win.

“La Salle did a great job of finding their feet after we had a great start. Once they had their feet, we lost ours and we couldn’t really come back,” said Baldwin.

Baldwin, however, is optimistic the Game Two loss will not change the mindset of his players.

“Their mentality is changed already. We got rid of that loss in the locker room after the game. We moved on. We have Game Three and that’s all we think about," he said

"La Salle didn’t think about Game One, they came out and played. We won’t think about Game Two. It’s winner takes all now.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @reubensports