MANILA, Philippines – Ateneo head coach Bo Perasol warned the Blue Eagles against always rallying at the last minute after their failed comeback attempt against archrivals La Salle in the second round of the UAAP Season 77 tournament last Sunday.
The Blue Eagles got off to a slow start, allowed La Salle to build a 13-point lead, but mounted a rally in the second half. They briefly took a lead, but the Green Archers executed better in crunch time and held on for an 88-86 victory.
"I have to give it to La Salle. They started really well," said Perasol. "We all knew, as a team, that this game is going be a grind."
It was the second straight game that Ateneo had a poor start and allowed their opponent to build a large lead. In their last game of the first round, the University of the East (UE) led them by 21 points in the first half, but Kiefer Ravena led a comeback in the second half and the Blue Eagles won in overtime.
Ateneo also trailed against University of Santo Tomas in their first round game but was again saved by a game-winning jumper from Ravena.
Perasol warned his players that in the second round of the tournament, they cannot always afford to spot opponents a lead and then just rally in the end.
"We can't just go in a game and win it in the last seconds most of the time," he said. "That's what happened in the first round."
"Looking forward, what we need to do is just find a way. If we want to win more, we have to make sure that we have to set up ourselves na hindi lagi kami sa endgame nananalo," Perasol added. "Kasi, it could always go either way."
"I know it's going to take a lot of effort from my players, but I believe that's what we need to do."
But Perasol does not think that their slow start against La Salle was due to complacency or from the excitement because of the high-profile game.
"I think they really started well, with Jeron (Teng). I have to give it to them," he said.
Ravena, who finished with 22 points in the game but missed crucial shots in the end, said La Salle "played good defense" and the Blue Eagles simply couldn't make their shots in the first quarter.
"Hindi kami nakaka-shoot, so ganoon talaga. May mga good starts. They played excellent noong first quarter, first half," he said.
At the same time, Ravena agreed with his coach that the team needs to address their slow starts, especially in the second round.
"Sino ba naman gusto mag-start ng ganoon?" he pointed out. "Siyempre, second round na. First round, forgivable pa kasi adjustments are going to be made, pero second round, wala na. Lahat naka-adjust na, so everything's going to be tighter, everything's going to be harder."
Ravena also acknowledged that the team was adversely affected by the foul trouble of starting forward Chris Newsome, who played sparingly in the first half after being tagged with three fouls.
"It really affected us. The rotation changed, and our materials inside (changed). Of course, Chris is always a threat whenever he's inside, so medyo nabawasan 'yun," he said.
Ateneo will get a chance to rebound from their loss on Wednesday when they play UE, and Perasol stressed the importance of a better start this time.
"We need to have a good start against UE, and we need to sustain that as well," said the coach.