MANILA, Philippines — De La Salle University head coach Aldin Ayo downplayed the comments made by his Ateneo de Manila University counterpart, Tab Baldwin, in the aftermath of their teams’ thrilling duel in the UAAP Season 80 men’s basketball finals.
Baldwin’s Blue Eagles were triumphant, beating Ayo’s Green Archers two games to one. The deciding Game 3 was a hugely entertaining contest that featured seven ties and seven lead changes, and it was not settled until the final minute.
A booming three-pointer by Isaac Go gave Ateneo a five-point cushion with 48 seconds left, and it proved enough for them to hack out an 88-86 win for their first UAAP title since 2012.
Afterward, Baldwin acknowledged how tough the series was for them, and commended the Ayo and his now famous “mayhem” defense.
“We had to rise to their level. They set the bar,” Baldwin said of La Salle, while also praising Ayo for implementing a system that allows his players to flourish.
Ayo, however, read Baldwin’s comment in a different manner.
“He’s playing mind games,” the La Salle coach said when informed of Baldwin’s sentiment. “Ganoon naman palagi eh. Ako, naiintindihan ko naman, because he’s just competing.”
Ayo, who won an NCAA title with Colegio de San Juan de Letran in 2015 before making a much-publicized move to La Salle just a few months later, believes that Baldwin’s statement is the opening salvo in the next round of their duel — one that won’t start until the next year.
“He’s going to say nice things, and those things are preparation for next year,” Ayo said.
“Everything that we say here to all of you, lahat ‘yan may purpose, and the purpose is to compete,” he stressed.
Thus, Ayo is unwilling to take Baldwin’s words at face value, no matter how complimentary they seem to be. Still, he insists that he has no problems if the Kiwi-American coach wants to play mind games in this way.
“Kung titingnan mo ‘yung motive, he’s just competing,” said Ayo. “On our part, walang problema. We just want to compete.”
For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.