MANILA, Philippines -- Dave Ildefonso repaid the confidence shown in him by Ateneo de Manila University head coach Tab Baldwin with a bounce-back performance in Game 2 of the UAAP Season 84 finals.
Ildefonso was Ateneo's second-leading scorer in the elimination round but he was held in check in Game 1 of the finals by the University of the Philippines (UP).
In an 81-74 loss, Ildefonso made just two of six shots and committed six of the Blue Eagles' 20 turnovers. Afterward, Baldwin said his young swingman needed to "settle down" -- and that he was certain Ildefonso would do so in Game 2.
"I messed up really bad in Game 1," Ildefonso said after the second game of the series, which Ateneo won 69-66 to force a decider.
"But thankfully, Coach Tab and the other coaches really helped me calm down and have a different mindset in this Game 2," he added.
Ildefonso still didn't shoot well, making just four of 13 field goals. But he was more composed, contributing eight rebounds -- including the board that wrapped up the win -- and four assists. He had two steals and halved his turnovers to just three in nearly 30 minutes of playing time.
"Just play in the moment," said Ildefonso, who had a crucial free throw in crunch time to help the Blue Eagles maintain a slim lead against the Fighting Maroons.
"Every possession, every quarter, we just gotta take it one step at a time. Thankfully I got less turnovers in this game, and I think that's because of Coach Tab," he said.
Ildefonso, who is making his first appearance in a seniors division finals, said he approached Baldwin after the first game and "really asked for help."
"I didn't know what to do," he admitted. "The luxury of being coached by Coach Tab is you can always approach him, and you can always ask, and you can just put your hand up in the air and you can just ask, 'What do I do, coach?'"
"I'm just thankful for this time with Coach Tab and the coaching staff that we have. It's a great program that we're in," he added.
Game 3 will be on Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena. A victory would mean a fourth straight championship for the Blue Eagles, but a first for Ildefonso who transferred to Ateneo from National University in 2020.