On Dec. 3, the sound of the final buzzer signaled the end of the men’s basketball championship in Season 80 of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP).
The Ateneo Blue Eagles won against defending champ and archrival De La Salle Green Archers, 88-86.
There was blood, literally, at certain moments, with a number of players sustaining injuries during tension-filled games. Fans relived the “good old days,” initiating fights (verbal, not physical) in the stands.
This was the Blue Eagles’ first championship in five years, its first since coach Norman Black steered the Katipunan squad to five straight victories from 2008 to 2012.
After the awarding ceremonies, whatever animosity felt in the last three games was forgotten as both teams showed respect for each other.
St. La Salle Hall, the oldest building in the DLSU campus, was bathed in blue lights in recognition of Ateneo’s victory. (See related story on this page.)
Ateneo turned to social media to thank and also congratulate its adversary for a well-played season.
“Lighting the St. La Salle Hall with the color blue shows true sportsmanship,” says Jesi de los Reyes, medical student and La Salle alumna.
A former DLSU cheerleader agrees: “Blue looks good on Taft Avenue. Sports bring these two schools together. After the game, there is no hate.”
Ateneo alumnus and former Blue Babble Band member Migo Mantes also appreciates Ateneo’s social media posts after games 2 and 3: “It showed humility in Ateneo’s response to victory and defeat.”
Kish Flores, who was lucky enough to have witnessed championships in all his years in college, adds: “The Ateneo community showed sportsmanship and class, win or lose.”
Hours after celebrating a well-fought men’s basketball season, the Blue Eagles still had another challenge to take on, one that is perhaps more formidable than the Green Archers squad: finals week in academics.
This is what’s admirable about the Blue Eagles. Students first and athletes a close second, they are committed to fulfilling their academic requirements without special treatment and even after bringing great honor to their school.
Whether you’re a star player or not, you still have to attend classes, take exams and pass them in order to be allowed to play. It’s a sense of commitment that Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin has instilled in this group of young men.
No superstar complex
Thirdy Ravena, who was cut off from the team in Season 78 for academic troubles, has since learned how to balance his studies with basketball.
“Thirdy is a good kid. He comes to class like any other student,” says Zomesh Maini, a biology professor who taught the player in his Biotechnology Laboratory class.
Mesh, as he is known to the students, recalls that Ravena did not just scrape by to get a passing grade, he really worked for better marks. “More than his class standing, he is very kind. He will always be the one to greet you. He has no superstar complex,” he says.
Isaac Go, another campus hero, has a major in Management of Applied Chemistry, one of the more challenging courses at the John Gokongwei School of Management.
Since the championship, Go has taken to Twitter to ask for “likes” for his class project—a toilet sanitizing and deodorizing product he and his group are trying to sell. Handling a business is part of the senior thesis of management majors.
According to the humble and gentle giant (Go is 6-foot-7 tall), to eventually go professional may be an amateur player’s dream, but he also knows that basketball is not forever, and he’s making good use of his athletic scholarship to ensure a better life after his time on the hardcourt.
Congratulations are also in order to the Ateneo athletes, coaching staff, and community for hard-earned wins in men’s judo, and men’s and women’s swimming. —CONTRIBUTED