MANILA, Philippines — A visit by former Ateneo players prior to Game 2 ignited the Blue Eagles, inspiring them to a 65-55 win in Game 2, bringing the UAAP Season 85 Men’s Basketball Finals to a decision. destined for the throne.
Ange Kouame and Kai Ballungay thank the Blue Eagles — specifically brothers Matt and Mike Nieto, Gian Mamuyac, Will Navarro, Tyler Tio, Raffy Verano, Anton Asistio, Adrian Wong, Vince Tolentino and Isaac Go — for visiting. They train and watch them play. live match
Kouame scored 19 points, 11 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 saves and 2 assists, while Ballungay came back from goalless Game 1 with 15 points and 5 goals to equalize the series.
“It really is [heart]- warming. But not only that, because I also witnessed when they lost to La Salle in their first year, Season 79. I was there when they won their next championship in 80, and then I joined the team in 81. So I’m part of Kouame said.
“From them came from the ground to become something. They built this team, and I’m a senior now, so I respect them too. Because I’m part of it, and I try to bring those lessons to young people, so they know what we really are.”
Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin revealed his former players had planned a surprise visit to boost the current Blue Eagles’ momentum on Monday after losing in Game 1, 72-66.
“They organized it. I was surprised when they walked in. It was, of course, a very welcome surprise. We have very few precious chances to see them all together. And, I mean, even Will Navarro was there, and he was reported to have an anterior cruciate ligament injury. Bad news for Will, but he’s there too,” Baldwin said.
“I think the impact is extraordinary. Each of them spoke. And you know, I told the team the next day, I thought, these guys aren’t speakers. There are several captains there. Of course Mike Nieto, it’s hard to shut him up. But the rest, including the captains. They’re all there, they’re all talking.”
The three-time UAAP champion coach admits he was overwhelmed by the gestures of his former players
“Consistent theme. That is, there is a legacy. A legacy built on brotherhood. You know, it’s built on the few of us, because the one who will shed blood today for me is my brother. It builds on that legacy, and I don’t think this current team has had a chance to apply that philosophy. Pandemic, pre-season for short, lost last season. We haven’t embedded it yet and it worked on Monday night,” he said. “It’s real. It’s alive. It’s personified by the very people who built it. Strong. Powerful. I was overwhelmed.”
Ballungay said the senior’s talk got him excited to recover from his poor performance in Game 1.
“I think it really started on Monday night when the alumni came in and they talked to the group. It’s really special, not only for the team but especially for myself. Just listen to their stories. The Nieto brothers, Navarro. All those types of people, and they were able to pass on to me a lot of the things that they’ve seen, the things that they’ve been through in their careers,” he said.
“I really remember that and wanted — as Sean (Quitevis) said — to show that kind of brotherhood, which we can live up to, what they did all these years ago.”
Now that they’ve lived another day, Ateneo hopes to complete redemption in Game 3 with UP.
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