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Tab Baldwin believes this batch of Blue Eagles better than last year

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When second-year Ateneo de Manila University head coach Tab Baldwin emerged from the dugout of the SM Mall of Asia Arena after surviving an equally-hungry Far Eastern University Tamaraws squad, the American-Kiwi tactician was laser-focused on the final task at hand.

“La Salle. What else would I be thinking about? We have to move on,” said Baldwin, who had a rasp in his voice after steering the Blue Eagles to a grueling overtime victory last Wednesday.

Over a year ago, the De La Salle University Green Archers had been a cut above the rest, only losing one game en route to the UAAP Season 79 Men’s Basketball championship. It was a dominant run that saw the Aldin Ayo-mentored squad beat opponents by an average margin of 15.1 points per contest, while forcing a league-high 26.9 turnovers.UAAP 80 DLSU vs. ADMU - Ravena-4057

Ateneo were swept in the Finals as well, 67-65, 79-72.

This season, though, the Blue Eagles have closed the gap. Ateneo finished the season with a league-leading 13-1 record, beating La Salle in their first game 76-75 before falling in their final outing of the elimination round, 76-79.

Though it will be hard to recover from the classic semifinals series they had with the Tamaraws, it is the job of Baldwin and his staff to make the Blue Eagles forget about what had transpired to move forward.

“I think the coaching staff has to set the tone and we got to come down from the cloud pretty quick, get our focus on the next game because we didn’t play this season just to win in the semis,” the former head coach of Gilas Pilipinas added.

“We played this season to go as far as this team is capable of going.”

Even if they lost to an in-form Green Archers during their last meeting, Baldwin believes that the Blue Eagles are a better team, and not just compared to last year — he believes they’re better than the defending champions.UAAP 80 DLSU vs. ADMU - Matt Nieto-5328

“We’re a better team, as simple as that.

“We’ve proven that we are a better team all year long. I think apart from one big offensive lapse one period against La Salle, we’ve proven as good as they are, we had a terrible offensive lapse in the fourth quarter of the second game and it cost us the game,” Baldwin recalled as Ateneo was limited to just 13 points during that game’s final quarter.

“I don’t expect that my team will do that again but we have to get ourselves into a winning position first.”

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Ateneo pulls out of friendly against UST

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The Philippine Superliga regretfully announced Friday evening that the supposed tune-up match between the Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles and the University of Santo Tomas Golden Tigresses on Saturday has been cancelled.

“We regret to announce that the scheduled friendly game between Ateneo and University of Santo Tomas volleyball teams that was to serve as an appetizer to Saturday’s championship game between Petron and F2 Logistics will not push through,” PSL chairman Philip Juico released in a statement.

Though no specific reason was said regarding why the Lady Eagles decided to pull out of the tune-up that was announced Friday morning, the league stressed that the team agreed to play.

“A late announcement by the Ateneo de Manila University officials caused the cancellation of the match they have earlier agreed to play,” the statement furthered.

Even with this circumstance, the league is holding no grudges as it is still open to have a partnership with the Lady Eagles in the future.

“The Philippine Superliga still welcomes the Ateneo Volleyball Team to play in the league as we are open to all interested squads who want to be partners of the PSL.”

Still, Game Three of the Chooks-to-Go/PSL Grand Prix will still have a start time of 4:00pm.

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Lady Eagles versus Golden Tigresses to open PSL’s season finale

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Serving as the opening act for Game Three of the Chooks-to-Go/PSL Grand Prix Finals pitting the Petron Blaze Spikers and the F2 Logistics Cargo Movers, UAAP rivals Ateneo Lady Eagles will face the University of Santo Tomas Golden Tigresses to open the day’s festivities. The game is set at 1:00pm at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

This will be the final encounter of the two teams before the UAAP Season 80 Women’s Volleyball tournament begins on February 3.

The Growling Tigresses are expected to field a complete teams sans fourth-year spiker Cherry Rondina. Rondina will play for Petron later in the evening.

On the other hand, the Lady Eagles will be stepping on the PSL taraflex for the first-time ever. Ateneo won two championships in the collegiate division of PSL rival V-League. Bannering the new-look Ateneo will be Bea De Leon, Jho Maraguinot, and Kat Tolentino.

This will then be followed by the rubber match between Petron and F2 Logistics. The awarding ceremony for the tournament is set at 6:00pm.

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#OOThirdy

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The UAAP Season 80 Finals Most Valuable Player’s on court swag carries over off the court

In terms of stylish post-game Outfit of the Day (or #OOTD, as the millenials call it), if the NBA has Russell Westbrook, the UAAP has Thirdy Ravena.

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After games, the student-athletes usually just throw on a shirt and a comfortable pair of pants or shorts. However, the 20-year-old Ravena puts in more effort than that.

Rarely would you see him with a “plain” attire. From printed pants, to leather jackets, to statement shoes, this high-flying Blue Eagle has got it all.

When asked about his fashion sense, he proudly shared that he is the only one who plans his outfits — no stylist needed.

“It’s something I look forward to because I like to dress up. It’s an opportunity for me to show who I am. It’s one way to show your character,” said the second-generation cager, who averaged 15.0 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 0.9 steals during Ateneo’s golden run.

“Might as well enjoy also off the court diba!”

Photos of his outfits have been shared on social media and liked multiple times both on Twitter and on Instagram. He even has his own hashtag for it, #OOThirdy, and makes sure he maintains a lookbook in his well-curated Instagram feed.

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“It’s nothing big really. It’s just I didn’t expect that people will talk about it this way,” Ravena said after describing his style as a mix of streetwear and preppy.

“I’m happy that people accept me and they appreciate how I dress up.”

His basketball prowess propelled the Ateneo de Manila University to this season’s championship, showing his tremendous potential and hinting that his talent can go beyond the college level.

But with his natural flair for fashion, opportunities can also open up for him beyond basketball. When asked what he thinks of possibly designing clothes in the future, he immediately expressed his interest in it.

“That is something na parang I think I could have fun doing. We really can’t tell, but maybe in the future,” he said.

“Maybe kapag the time is right and when things are where they are supposed to be, then why not.”

If you are a basketball fan and fashion savvy at the same time, the excitement of watching an Ateneo game does not end after the final buzzer. Ravena’s post-game outfit game is something to look forward to, too.

Keep slaying, Thirdy!

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Much-maligned Chibueze Ikeh goes out in a blaze of glory

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With 1:39 left in Game Three of the UAAP Season 80 Men’s Basketball Finals, wily floor general Anton Asistio found a free Chibueze Ikeh underneath. Once he was able to lock his legs, Ikeh soared through the air before throwing down a thunderous one-handed jam that gave the Ateneo de Manila University an 82-73 lead.

The sea of blue in the jampacked SMART-Araneta Coliseum exploded with chants of “Ikeh! Ikeh! Ikeh!”.

“It was now or never,” Ikeh recalled during a live chat with ABS-CBN Sports.

“I took the opportunity since it was my last playing year, I had to take it hard all the time.”

The 6-foot-9 big man had waited for three years to experience that moment.

During his first two years with the Blue Eagles, no one was more scrutinized than Ikeh. Many were frustrated that he couldn’t release his true potential even if he had all the physical tools to do so. And that included second-year Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin.

“There’s this thing called male pattern balding. I’m losing more hair! Can you believe it?,” quipped Baldwin as he paid tribute to Ikeh during the Blue Eagles’ thanksgiving mass at the Church of the Gesu.

“Since I’ve know him he has been criticized more than any other player we have. And sometimes for good reason.”

Ikeh averaged a paltry 5.1 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks in his first two years in Ateneo. Amid the pressure on him to deliver, as he was inheriting a post left by great Ateneo centers like Rabeh Al-Hussaini and Greg Slaughter, he himself struggled to even stay on the floor during that time, averaging 2.9 fouls per game that limited him to just 17.7 minutes per contest.

Then there was his arrest last November 4, 2015.

Even with this, the Blue Eagles continued to believe in him.

“This is a young man who left his continent, friends, family,” furthered Baldwin.

“He had to fit in without asking anybody to fit in with him.”

Anybody else would have broken down, packed their bags, and left after experiencing all of this. Not Ikeh. The Nigerian student-athlete persevered in the off-season that resulted to career-highs across the board. In his final year, he posted norms of 7.5 points and 8.6 rebounds, per contest. Ikeh was even top 10 in the statistical points ladder to end the elimination round.

And no one appreciated him more then the Blue Eagles. Thirdy Ravena even asked Ikeh to join him at center court when he was awarded with the Finals Most Valuable Player plum.

“I wasn’t expecting that, but he’s been one of a kind. For him to share that moment with me, it feels so great,” said Ikeh about that moment. “I really appreciate that.”

“There are things na hindi nakikita ng mga tao talaga. It’s the intangible he brings,” Ravena added. “You don’t see it in the stats, but I saw Ikeh the whole game, he just did his job, he did his best to limit Ben [Mbala] and to execute the game plan.

“If it weren’t for Ikeh, his effort, Isaac [Go’s] shot, it wouldn’t be possible for us to win.”

As Ikeh went to the podium of the Church of the Gesu on Sunday night — his last moment as an Ateneo Blue Eagle — the community once again exploded into a chant of “Ikeh! Ikeh! Ikeh!”

“Thank you for believing in me,” Ikeh said, trying to fight off tears as he closed this chapter of his young career.

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