MANILA, Philippines — Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin admitted it was difficult to keep up with the compressed schedule of UAAP Season 84 men’s basketball tournament amid their perfect 11-0 record.
Playing in these unprecedented times, Baldwin said it’s grueling for all the teams playing every Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays since the season started last March 26. They only had a brief break during the Holy Week.
“I just have to say that this schedule is brutal. It is really, really brutal,” said the Ateneo coach after their 89-75 win over National University on Saturday at Mall of Asia Arena.
“I think it’s really unfair to everybody because it’s just very difficult for the players and the coaching staff to maintain a high standard of performance, and that’s really what the fans want. I think that’s what everybody wants. The players want that, and it isn’t just our team.”
“Talking to all the teams, everybody is exhausted,” he added.
The Blue Eagles have clinched at least the No.2 seed heading to the Final Four with 11-0 record, winning 37 straight games dating back to 2018.
Dave Ildefonso and SJ Belangel, though, said they just have to continue striving hard for the school’s fourth straight crown regardless of the situation.
“We’re just players. Players can’t be choosers,” said Ildefonso after putting up 16 points and nine rebounds. “We can’t do anything about that, so we just have to put our heads down and just work, do what the coaches say, and hope for the best.”
“We’re not robots. We’re just humans so we get tired. And even after games, we still have practice tomorrow and that’s the schedule every day. So you just have to adjust,” Belangel added.
Baldwin lauded the perseverance of his wards for staying undefeated despite the tiring schedule.
“Looking at our basketball team and our season, I marvel, really at how our players are continuing to push themselves under these circumstances,” Baldwin said. “I thought it would be almost impossible to go without a defeat through the season, and I still think it’s a remote possibility.”
Ateneo is is down to the last three games of the elimination against Adamson (5-6) on Tuesday, versus Far Eastern University (4-6) on Thursday, and the No.2 University of the Philippines (9-2) on Sunday next week.
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