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Baldwin concedes UP’s championship ‘felt like destiny’

After three straight titles, Ateneo’s dynasty has come to a close.

Or at least, for now.

Seeking their fourth straight title, the Blue Eagles instead fell at the hands of the Fighting Maroons. They suffered a 69-72 loss in the winner-take-all Game Three of UAAP Season 84 Men’s Basketball Finals.

Tab Baldwin’s men failed to counter the big shots made by UP, most especially JD Cagulangan’s game-winning three-ball that won it all for State U. The American-Kiwi mentor lauded the desire, relentlessness, and eagerness that the Fighting Maroons showed as they edged out their top-seeded opponents to end a 36-year long title drought.

UAAP-84-MBB-ADMU-vs.-UP-Finals-G3-Joel-Cagulangan-1246 Baldwin concedes UP's championship 'felt like destiny' ADMU Basketball News UAAP  - philippine sports news

“I think for anybody to try and encapsulate their thoughts in a couple of minutes about that game would be, somehow doing a disservice to the game,” Baldwin admitted. “It was an epic game, and I’m very proud of our team. But I acknowledge that UP fighting spirit. It just felt like destiny.

“The shots they hit, those aren’t shots that normal teams make in normal games. Much less in a championship game, and so you gotta give a lot of credit to their players and their coaches, and I wish that they enjoy this championship, and they worked extremely hard for.

“They had a great season, they had an unbelievable Finals series. We just weren’t quite good enough when we needed to be good enough.” he continued.

The Fighting Maroons have been the bane of the Blue Eagles all season long. Ateneo won its first 13 match-ups, only to lose to UP in its final elimination game. Goldwin Monteverde’s squad also took Game One of the Finals with an 81-74 victory before clinching the title with a thrilling win in Game Three.

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After falling to UP thrice this season, Baldwin knows that they have finally met their match after dominating the UAAP for three straight years. He acknowledged the fight that his opponents gave them and extended his well wishes to the whole UP community for their title celebration.

UAAP-84-MBB-ADMU-vs.-UP-Finals-G3-4222 Baldwin concedes UP's championship 'felt like destiny' ADMU Basketball News UAAP  - philippine sports news

“But it’s a razor-thin difference between the two teams, but certainly, the feeling in the two locker rooms couldn’t be more than further apart than what they are. So, I wish them congratulations and wish them well for their celebrations,” he expressed.

“Stay safe, and to all of their fans and supporters, it’s a great moment in UP basketball history. And I think we have all to acknowledge that for them.”

Baldwin also admitted that the pain of this heartbreaking loss will stick for a while. Still, he vowed they’d get back to work as they try to avenge their Finals defeat next season.

“And for Ateneo, it’s a bitter pill but we’ll take it. We’ll lick our wounds and say goodbye to an outstanding group of seniors, and have a couple of weeks off. They have final exams now, and very soon we’ll be back on the court preparing for the next season.”

Indeed, Season 84 was a challenging tourney for everyone due to the unique circumstances brought by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Baldwin claimed that playing in a bubble setup for months with limited preparations and a short period of recovery in between games hurdled all teams this season.

UAAPS84-UP-v-ADMU-G1-Belangel-2766-1 Baldwin concedes UP's championship 'felt like destiny' ADMU Basketball News UAAP  - philippine sports news

“Very difficult. I know that we had to do what we did, and I know that it was unfamiliar territory for the organizers, as well as for the teams,” the multi-titled head coach reflected. “I also know that every team was essentially in the same boat. We all had to deal with the same difficulties as one another. But in the end, in retrospect, I think we should’ve probably made allowance for more time between games.”

He also bared how grueling the tournament has been and how it hindered each and every team from reaching its full potential. UP, for one, had to play five games in almost 10 days after needing an extra game to eliminate La Salle in the Final Four. Then they went through an extended Finals series against Ateneo that spanned three games.

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“I think that we didn’t get the best out of our basketball teams. In some ways, it makes you sit back and wonder, did we do this for the competition, for the players, as we should? Or did we do this just to get it done, you know… Just to say we had a season,” he said.

“Because I mean look at UP, look at what they did over the last two weeks. They’ve played five games in 10 days. It’s really difficult to play at this intensity level, to play quality basketball when that’s demanded of you. And our season was no different.”

Baldwin admitted that the Blue Eagles fell victim to the challenges brought by this season, which hindered them from successfully defending their three-peat crown. Despite finding himself on the losing end this time around, he still didn’t offer any excuses. Instead, he credited the Fighting Maroons for winning a much-deserved championship.

UAAP-84-MBB-ADMU-vs.-UP-Finals-G1-Tab-Baldwin-2302 Baldwin concedes UP's championship 'felt like destiny' ADMU Basketball News UAAP  - philippine sports news

“I think that we suffered from a declining quality of basketball as the season we’re on, because you just don’t get any training sessions during the seasons,” he said. “You’re always in recovery, in preparation for the next game. You’re not really drilling and working on the basketball fundamentals that you need to be for players this age.

“But, I don’t want to take away from this occasion. This was a great final and UP is a worthy champion.”

All UAAP games stream live on GigaPlay presented by Yamaha. Download it now on Android or IOS.SMART-x-Yamaha Baldwin concedes UP's championship 'felt like destiny' ADMU Basketball News UAAP  - philippine sports news

Written By

Student. Writer. Manager. Blue Eagle

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