Mendoza: Contrasting wins by Ateneo & Letran

Al Mendoza

WHILE Ateneo was expected to win, not Letran, though.

And while everything went Ateneo’s way, again, not Letran.

Ateneo was well-rested when it entered the best-of-three Finals, watching UST go through a laborious route by needing to win three games to make it to the UAAP championship.

Knocking FEU out was tough enough but then, was UST’s twin win over UP not as grueling as in scaling Mt. Apo, if not Mt. Everest?

Thus, when the Growling Tigers met the Blue Eagles in Game One, there wasn’t a single roar, growl, to be heard, before, during and after the match.

Instead, a muffled wailing must have been noisily echoing from their guts, them being mercifully herded to their death by firing squad like condemned convicts.

The result was ominous: 91-77. Ateneo.

Game Two had been essentially won even before the first whistle was blown.

UAAP Season 82 had been securely snared by the Eagles, whose multiple aims were not only directed at the tournament trophy coveted by all but all tournaments record available.

Missions accomplished: An Ateneo “three-peat” that made the school the only one to pocket three successive UAAP titles twice.

An Ateneo champion coached by another American to a “three-peat” achievement.

Tab Baldwin, now listed as a Kiwi-American, has not only equaled Norman Black’s three-title string earlier but has likewise made Ateneo the only team to accomplish a 16-game sweep in putting away the tournament.

The balding, now bearded, Baldwin faces the enviable, if not attractive, challenge of Xeroxing, if not surpassing, Black’s unprecedented “five-peat”—that is, if he keeps his post at Ateneo.

We’ll see.

Meanwhile, hat’s off also to Bonnie Tan, who piloted Letran to a 2-1 NCAA victory past the fancied San Beda and spoil Lion coach Boyet Fernandez’s date with history.

What made Tan’s feat more astonishing was his being a rookie Letran coach, courageously overcoming the odds to erase the stigma of four years of failure as mentor of Lyceum Philippines University.

Savor the moment, Bonnie.