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Teamwork makes Ateneo UAAP champ

By Al S. Mendoza


ATENEO is 2017 UAAP champ when La Salle should be it.

After La Salle’s incredible comeback from 21 points to win Game 2, who would have thought Ateneo could still rebound from that atrocious collapse?

Definitely, with that blood-curdling, come-from-behind win, massive momentum was on La Salle’s side going to the deciding Game 3 for the most coveted men’s amateur basketball title in the land.

Only the Eagles’ mothers swore Ateneo could come back, rising as they did from the grave in the decider in a Jesus-like resurrection torn from a Bible page.

You know how kids are to their Moms:  They are champs to them up to the ends of the Earth.

And so it was that Ateneo would emerge victorious in the game that mattered most.

The record crowd of more than 22,000 at Cubao’s Araneta Coliseum were treated to an epic battle, whose outcome was as unbelievable as the parting of the Red Sea.

OK, Ateneo won but it did it by the slimmest of margins: 88-86.

Ateneo prevailing was the result of a confluence of amazing, at times, startling sequences seldom seen in a championship clash.

La Salle would lead this second but quickly in the next moment, it would yield the driver’s seat to Ateneo—at times in an unlikely, unexpected, manner.

So close, so tenacious, so unpredictable, was the match’s direction that seven deadlocks and seven lead changes punctuated the contest.

The final result hung uncertainly up to the deathly end, as in a car gone wayward due to a faulty break—its nose precariously dangling by the precipice.

Only when Isaac Go buried an improbable triple did Ateneo appear a sure winner at 85-80, 24.7 seconds left in the game.

With that killer of a three, the 6-foot-8 Go got me thinking he richly deserves the tag, “Miracle Eagle.”

Wasn’t he the same guy who shot a trey to send Ateneo to overtime against Far Eastern University, and the Eagles emerged winners to earn that Finals encounter with La Salle?

I’d say Go’s miraculous shot against La Salle was the exclamation point to Ateneo’s 88-86 victory as the Eagles halted the Archers’ nine-game winning run at the Big Dome on top of a ninth overall triumph in UAAP Men’s basketball.

In defeat, La Salle learned the bitter lesson that having the biggest star in the league—two-time MVP Ben Mbala—wasn’t a surefire formula for success.

And, in victory, Ateneo, bereft of certified stars, now has this stairway to heaven for keeps:  Teamwork wins in the end.

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Here’s a glass to Camp John Hay’s Monet Garcia, who disqualified himself in the ongoing 68th DOT-Fil Am Golf Invitational in Baguio City after he saw his score posted in the electronic board as higher than what he actually scored.  “That’s a world-class act and how many like him would do such an amazing thing,” said Tim Allen, the tournament co-chair.

What can I say?  May Monet’s tribe increase!

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