Ateneo head coach Bo Perasol. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – Ateneo head coach Bo Perasol was admittedly unhappy with how the Blue Eagles won their UAAP Season 77 game against the University of the Philippines (UP) last Wednesday.
The Blue Eagles escaped by the skin of their teeth, 70-69 -- and only after UP guard Mikee Reyes missed two free throws with eight-tenths of a second remaining.
"I don't know how to phrase this, but I'm not happy with how we won," Perasol said after the game.
"I've spoken about how UP has improved a lot in the second round, and the fact is, a lot of us were thinking that we can just coast against UP," he admitted. "That's why we didn't expect that they were going to come back against us."
Ateneo took a double-digit lead in the third quarter but was never able to take complete control of the game, as Reyes and JR Gallarza both waxed hot in the second half and took turns torching the Ateneo defense.
Gallarza scored 14 points in the third period, then Reyes took over in the fourth, scoring 15 points including a three-pointer that cut the lead to one. He eventually failed to lead his team to the win, however, after missing the charities.
It was still a solid performance for a UP team that has steadily improved in the second round since winning their first game of the season against Adamson.
"They defended really well. We were not able to score when it mattered, and we missed free throws in the end," said Perasol.
Ateneo star Kiefer Ravena, who missed two crucial free throws that could have given Ateneo a three-point lead late in the game, acknowledged that complacency may have been a factor. But he also pointed out that their rotation during the game was longer than usual.
"You should know that Coach Bo played all 16 guys," said Ravena. "We're not used to it. It's the first time that it happened throughout the season, so the rotation was a little off-timing."
Each Ateneo player logged in at least three minutes of playing time, with little-used rookie Clint Doliguez even seeing action during crunch time.
"We trust Coach Bo," Ravena stressed. "The positive thing about it is that ginamit niya lahat, and everyone contributed. Kahit hindi naka-shoot, pero rebound, depensa, lahat napasok."
"Pangit 'yung result, pero panalo, so in the end, it helped us pa rin."
When asked about his rotation, Perasol said: "Lagi ko namang sinasabi sa kanila na if I could be given the chance to play them, inisip ko sana na this could be the time, if we can have a good game."
"I think because we won, in hindsight, naging maganda rin 'yung decision ko, but with the way we won it, I don't think na dapat ginawa ko rin 'yun sa buong laro," he admitted.
"I'm happy that we ended up winning this game, but at the same time, this is going to be a lesson for me too."
The win over UP assured Ateneo of at least a playoff for a spot in the Final Four and kept them within striking distance of the league-leading FEU Tamaraws.