Baldwin lauds La Salle, plays down praise for overachieving Ateneo: 'We had higher aspirations'
"If we don't come in next year thinking what our weaknesses are and what we have to improve, then we'll probably go backwards," says Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin. Jerome Ascano

ATENEO coach Tab Baldwin had nothing but praise for newly-crowned champion La Salle in the aftermath of their 72-79 Game Two loss in the UAAP Season 79 finals on Wednesday.  

"They were the best team all year long. There's nothing I could say that's a surprise. They earned this championship," Baldwin said. 

"I think a lot of people may have been saying that they were much better than they were performing, that's exceptionally unfair. They had to fight hard to win this championship and they showed a lot of character in doing that, and they deserve all the credit for that." 

The American mentor also made special mention of La Salle star Jeron Teng, who had a sterling performance in the final game of a collegiate career highlighted by two championships.

[See La Salle crowns season to remember with sweep of Ateneo in finals]

Before 17,495 screaming fans at the Smart Araneta Coliuseum, the son of former PBA player Alvin Teng carried the Green Archers on his shoulders and finished with 28 points, including some key baskets down the stretch. 

"Jeron today was unbelievable. He was clearly the MVP," said Baldwin of Teng, who was named Finals MVP.

"He was the guy they went to. They recognized that their title hopes lie on his shoulders, and he delivered. I thought all of their guys did a great job and they're an outstanding group of players. They played outstanding and we did our best to make it tough, to some degree we did, but they were the better team." 

[See Thirdy Ravena admits succumbing to pressure]

Despite dealing La Salle’s only loss in an impressive season for Ateneo, Baldwin played down the praise for his young squad, saying their "goals were beyond what we achieved." 

"We'll leave it to other people to determine if this year was successful or not. In our eyes, we had higher aspirations," he said.

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"I can say that the growth was impressive, but that's what we're supposed to do. We're supposed to grow as individuals and as a team. I told to this team from Day One, 'Our job is not to win a championship. Our job is to grow great players. The by-product of doing that is winning championships.'"

"Obviously, from the outcome of this team, the future looks very bright with the very bright group and significantly high accomplishments this year, but at the same time, if we don't come in next year thinking what our weaknesses are and what we have to improve, then we'll probably go backwards," he added.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @janbballesteros