The Ateneo Blue Eagles’ next-man-up mantra was at a whole other level on Thursday afternoon.
When the defending UAAP Men’s Basketball champions were called to the floor for the official warm-ups, the Blue Eagles came out one by one.
First, it was Adrian Wong, followed by Jason Credo and RV Berjay. Then, Isaac Go and Tyler Tio came out of the dressing room.
No one else followed.
Admittedly, Go, an incoming fifth-year Blue Eagle, was bracing for the worst.
“Oo naman [kinabahan ako na baka walang dumating].
“I think after Monday’s game, especially with the schedule, we weren’t really going to be surprised if no one showed up. We knew that we will have a team, but we did not know how many or who would come,” admitted the 22-year-old big man out of Xavier School.
That same five ended up playing the entire first quarter, keeping Ateneo afloat against the San Beda Red Lions, as the Blue Eagles were only down 16-18.
“I think everybody was just ready to play if given the opportunity,” added Go.
“It’s a chance for the other guys to step up.”
Reinforcements came early in the second stanza when Thirdy Ravena, SJ Belangel, Jolo Mendoza, and BJ Andrade arrived. But without Angelo Kouame, Go had to guard Donald Tankoua all game long.
“I thought Ange was going to come!
“But then, we needed to step up with classes now back. We don’t know the schedule of the classes, that is why we have to adjust to the people who are free,” Go said.
More importantly, they had to play with pride.
“When we step on the court, the next game is always the important game. Last game, we struggled, we had rust, but, of course, that can’t be an excuse,” he declared.
“When we put on the uniform, we must play the right way.”
When San Beda sliced Ateneo’s once-double digit lead down to three in the final frame, Go and Tio made sure to not their waste their efforts. They knocked down three straight triples to stop the Red Lions.
Go ended up with 28 points on seven triples to go along with 10 rebounds and two blocks. Moreover, he limited Tankoua to just 3-of-11 shooting.
“They went out there and under conditions that weren’t ideal. I think it just says something about them wanting to play the game the right way,” beamed Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin.
Even if the rubber match for the 2019 PCCL President’s Cup semifinals happens on a Saturday, Go remains pessimistic that they will have a full line-up. Still, he believes that they are ready for the task at hand.
“I don’t know. Wait and see but everybody is ready to step up,” he said.
“If we have guys, great. If we don’t, great.”