As Season 84 of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines drew to a close on Friday, coach Tab Baldwin and members of the Ateneo Blue Eagles dealt with the emotional difficulties of losing the crown to the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons.
Tears were shed on courtside at the Mall of Asia Arena and inside their locker room as well.
Then, the bonds of friendships with teammates and coaches were reaffirmed as soon as Baldwin and the rest of the squad bade their graduating senior players goodbye.
The entire squad wished five graduating cagers Tyler Tio, Gian Mamuyac, Raffy Verano, BJ Andrade and Jolo Mendoza good luck on their next journey, but with some sadness, minutes after the Fighting Maroons celebrated their 72-69 overtime triumph in Game 3 of their best-of-three finals and claimed their first crown in 36 years.
Mamuyac and Tio will take their act in the Philippine Basketball Association, as they are among the 66 players listed for the 2022 PBA Rookie Draft, while the 6’3” Verano is now considering an offer to join a club team in the Korean Basketball League.
“They have so much to be proud of. They’re going to be good pros. And I’m humbled by their friendship,” said Baldwin, who has been with Verano and Tio for four seasons, three championships and a runner-up finish.
Tio and Mamuyac have been among the lethal scorers from the outside for the Blue Eagles in the last three seasons.
On the other hand, Verano has led Andrade and Mendoza in taking control of the boards whenever necessary.
“We spent a lot of time together, over a lot of years, and when that time comes to say goodbye, whether you win or lose, it’s really more difficult when you lose. But when it’s time to say goodbye, you just say the truth,” said Baldwin.
Mamuyac, who have been deadly as one of the team’s top guards, averaged 7.53 points while Tio has a norm of 7.41 points.
The 6’3” Verano, an effective back up to Angelo Kouame, averaged 8.25 points and 5.44 rebounds.
“In the locker room, they recognized the things that they will be proud of in the season,” added Baldwin.
On the other hand, Andrade and Mendoza are set to find teams in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League to play in.
Baldwin acknowledged that Season 84 was indeed a difficult one, given the pandemic restrictions and the bubble setup that all teams went through.
“It’s really difficult to play at this intensity level, to play quality basketball when that’s demanded of you, and our season was no different. I think that we suffered from a declining quality of basketball as the season were on, because you just don’t get any training sessions during the seasons. You’re always in recovery, in preparation for the next game. You’re not really drilling the basketball fundamentals that you need to be for players this age. But I don’t want to take away from this occasion, this was a great final, and UP is a worthy champion,” added Baldwin.