De La Salle University head coach Aldin Ayo said that winning is the sole motivation of the Green Archers as they jump into the fray anew against archrival Ateneo De Manila University in the finals of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 80 men’s basketball tournament, starting today at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
“There’s no other motivation (for us) but to win the championship. That’s it,” said Ayo, whose wards face their bitter rivals in Game 1 of the best-of-three finals at 3 p.m.
La Salle punched a return ticket to the championship round after pulling off a controversial 82-75 win over Adamson University in their Final Four encounter, which saw the three referees who officiated the game get suspended days later.
But the Taft-based cagers are quick to shake off distractions as they brace for their title-retention bid against the boys from Katipunan.
“We are focused. Same thing. We’re just focused on the game plan especially on defense,” said Ayo, whose squad went on an eight-game winning streak in the second round of the eliminations to end up with a second-best 12-2 win-loss record.
“When we were in the first round, there were lots of distractions. Simple schemes on defense, sometimes we cannot execute. We tend to gamble a lot and we were very undisciplined. But they were different comes the second round because they just surrendered to the system and shut down distractions,” he added.
Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin is also hell-bent on ruling the title series after leading his Blue Eagles to a thrilling 88-84 overtime win against the gritty Far Eastern University in their winner-take-all semifinals game.
“We have to move on. The coaching staff has to set the tone and we have to come down from the cloud pretty quick, get our focus on the next game,” said Baldwin.
“We didn’t play this season just to win in the semis. We played this season to go as far as this team is capable of going,” added the former Gilas Pilipinas coach.
Ateneo pulled off an impressive a 13-game winning run this season. But it was followed by a losing skid—a 76-79 defeat to La Salle in the last game of the eliminations and a 67-80 setback to Far Eastern U in the first game of their Final Four face-off. The latter resulted in a tougher route to the finals for the Eagles.
But Baldwin said his wards has proven that they were better players this season and all that matters is to beat the Archers, who swept them for the crown last year.
“We’re a better team. As simple as that. We’ve proven that all year long and I think apart from one big offensive lapse one period against La Salle, we’ve proven as good as they are,” declared the 59-year old mentor.
Heading into their sixth finals showdown, La Salle leads in offense with an average scoring output of 91.5 points per game while Ateneo trails behind with 85.8 markers.
But the Eagles displayed better defense, limiting their opponents to just 74.8 points (second in the league) compared to the Archers’ 80.3 markers (fifth).