By Eriko dela Cruz
No two ways about it.
I may sound like a spoiled asshole here. That’s because I, as well as so many other Ateneo fans, are. This team has made winning so much of a habit that everyone is so used to it. We’ve forgotten what losing feels like.
It’s been more than three years since I saw the Ateneo Blue Eagles lose. It was a winnable game against the FEU Tamaraws where the breaks of the game did not go Ateneo’s way. Some would even call losses like those character-building losses.
Either way, character or not, losing still friggin’ sucks.
This game felt the same way. It was a very winnable game for Ateneo. They started out flat-footed. At one point, The UP Fighting Maroons were leading by as much as 18 points. Malik Diouf showed everyone in the Arena why he was touted as a match to Ange Kouame. Carl Tamayo was a super rookie. Blythe’s boyfriend (sorry Ricci and UP fans, allow me to be bitter just for a bit here) was very steady, even hitting the clutch free throws that sealed UP’s win.
Coach Goldwyn Monteverde did his homework. The Fighting Maroon defense stopped Ateneo on its tracks early in the game and in key possessions at the end. The ball rotation was fluid, finding Ateneo late in the closeout. They were very steady every time Ateneo made a run, answering with very timely baskets.
It was a well-deserved win for the UP Fighting Maroons. They played very inspired basketball to close out the elimination round (maybe a lucky charm in the form of a video greeting, we don’t know). However, this does not mean that losing to them is in any way acceptable.
But it already happened. The game’s over. Knowing Coach Tab Baldwin and the Blue Eagles, they are already looking at the next game.
Ateneo has always been looked at as some machine that executes plays to perfection. Cool, calm, collected. They always find ways to get that W. For 39 games, that has always been the truth. It was a good run, and it had to end sometime.
These are human beings. No, scratch that. No matter how good the Ateneo Blue Eagles are, these are still COLLEGE kids. No matter how good of a system you have, preaching a great mentality, they are still susceptible to the pitfalls of a team nearing glory. There would always be missed shots and lapses on defense. No matter how much anyone says to not think about a sweep or a championship, there would still be times that they will think about it. Anything less than perfection is actually the norm rather than the exception.
This human weakness, however, can actually make the Blue Eagles be better. This loss is a reminder that no matter what heights they reached before, there are always taller mountains to climb. This loss is a wake-up call to close games out properly, something they’ve had trouble with this season. This loss can awaken the (almost very) cliche Atenean concept of Magis; to do more than what is expected.
I hate it, what I am about to say. A loss, character-building or not, is still a loss. But in this case, this loss is character-building. A character-building loss that can be used as fuel.
To the Blue Eagles, a short message. Losing sucks. Make sure you don’t feel that again.
Job’s not yet done, boys. Three more wins.