MANILA, Philippines -- Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin has called on the fans of the Blue Eagles to show up in the UAAP Season 85 Finals, where they will be looking to dethrone the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons.
UP ended Ateneo's three-season reign as UAAP champions last May, when they claimed the Season 84 crown to end a title drought that has lasted nearly 40 years. The Katipunan rivals arranged a rematch after beating their respective opponents in the Final 4 on Wednesday.
Baldwin has said that his team will carry a different perspective to this season's Finals; unlike previous years where they were clearly the favorites, Ateneo now has "the DNA of underdogs." He also believes that the Fighting Maroons are an even better team now than they were in Season 84.
With this in mind, Baldwin is hopeful that they will be backed up by a capacity crowd when they play the defending champions, starting on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
"Here's what I wanna say about the pressure that we might be feeling. I want MOA and Araneta to be chock full of blue in every potential seat that is available. And I don't care what it takes to get those seats," Baldwin said after they dismissed Adamson, 81-60, in the Final 4 to book a sixth straight Finals appearance.
"I want the Ateneo faithful behind this team, because this team has already surpassed a lot of the expectations of them, and even to be fair, of the coaching staff. But the good thing is, they haven't surpassed their own, and that's a credit to them," he added.
Against a UP team that features a powerhouse roster, however, the Blue Eagles will need "every ounce of the One Big Fight."
"We need every single blue-blooded Filipino from around the world throwing every bit of weight they have behind this team. Because that's how much respect I have for UP, and that's how good I think that team is," said Baldwin.
UP and Ateneo went 1-1 in the elimination round: the Fighting Maroons won in overtime in the first round, 76-71, but the Blue Eagles got the better of them in their rematch, 75-67.
Both games were nip-and-tuck affairs and Baldwin expects nothing different in the Finals.
"That intact roster that you're talking about is a championship roster," the Ateneo coach said of UP. "And, that's a championship coaching staff. They did a phenomenal job last year, they did a phenomenal job today. But I know how pressure weighs on you. They will be feeling the pressure."
UAAP Season 85 is streaming on iWantTFC every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, available for Premium users outside the Philippines.