MANILA, Philippines -- Ateneo de Manila University must be quick to learn from its painful defeat to the University of the Philippines (UP) last Sunday, as it moves forward in its UAAP Season 84 campaign.
This, according to head coach Tab Baldwin who is looking forward to how his team will respond after its 39-game winning streak came to an end against the Fighting Maroons.
"You don't win 'em all," said Baldwin, who took responsibility for their 84-83 defeat to their Katipunan neighbors. "It's not a question of if you can't win 'em all -- you can. But nobody ever has. So the truth is you don't win 'em all."
Despite the loss, Ateneo still ended the elimination round as the top seeded team, with a 13-1 win-loss record. It is already assured of a twice-to-beat advantage in the Final 4, where it will play Far Eastern University.
Baldwin anticipates a difficult match-up against the Tamaraws, even though Ateneo had won both of their elimination round encounters. The Blue Eagles took a 79-70 triumph in the first round and a 70-53 win in the second.
Their aura of invincibility was shattered on Sunday night, however, as UP raced to a 27-13 lead in the opening quarter and led by as much as 18 points before the Blue Eagles fought back. They led by four points midway through the final quarter, but were out-played down the stretch by the Fighting Maroons.
Baldwin acknowledged that his Ateneo team, for all of its talent and experience, lacked the experience in crunch time situations. In contrast, UP had played several cardiac games in Season 84 and knew what to do in the closing stretch.
"This Ateneo team, we haven't been in a one-possession game at the end of the game since the first game we played UST in whatever season that was, where we won 71-70," said Baldwin, referring to their thriller against University of Santo Tomas in the first round of Season 82.
"So, we haven't been in that situation, and I thought we didn't have good composure and good decision-making in that situation. And like anything else, you need those in order to be good at those," he added.
The Blue Eagles have two days to regroup and refocus, with their sights now set on an FEU team that Baldwin knows will be very dangerous.
"We have to make sure that this loss is useful for us, and there will be lessons taken and lessons learned," he stressed.
"They [FEU] are very good, and it seems like whenever we play a semifinal with Ateneo, we run up against FEU. And, the history there is one of a lot of difficulty, and we don't expect anything less," he pointed out.
Ateneo and FEU played in four consecutive Final 4s from Season 78 to Season 81. The Tamaraws won in Season 78 on Mac Belo's game-winner, but the Blue Eagles took their next three encounters.
Their match-up in Season 80 is notable for the clutch heroics of Isaac Go in the do-or-die Game 2, where Ateneo won 88-84 in overtime.
"Olsen [Racela] just does a great job, and they're gonna be ready," said Baldwin. "They gave us a hard time in the last game, and we separated in the second half. They're gonna fancy their chances, for sure."
The Tamaraws advanced to the semifinals with a 7-7 win-loss record, and will have momentum thanks to a big win against University of Santo Tomas in their final elimination round game.
Tip-off between Ateneo and FEU is at 6 p.m. at the Mall of Asia Arena.