Ateneo de Manila University duplicated the feat of the mighty 1987-1988 Blue Eagles team, capturing its second straight UAAP Senior Men's Basketball championship with a 71-58 demolition of the University of the East Red Warriors last October 8 in front of a 19,000-strong crowd at the Araneta Coliseum. [firstpara]
Champion coach Norman Black reveals to fhm.com.ph his team's rise to back-to-back glory—plus, what's in store for Blue Eagles fanatics next year!
RETURN TO DOMINANCE
Wow, it truly has been a long and tough road. This season was a little more difficult. I probably say that because Chris Tiu did a lot of my leadership work last year. I had to do a lot of the leadership work this year. The coaching staff focused on the returning players and made sure they concentrate and listen to what we wanted done on a consistent basis. But the one thing this team has in common with our 2008 team was that both of them worked very, very hard. These players not only do what you asked them to do during practice, but they put in extra time every single day on their individual games. We believe that if we can improve individually, then we can improve as a team.
SEASON STRUGGLES INTERVIEW: JASMINE PAYO
I really felt at the end of last year that we'd still have a good team this year. We have the majority of the players coming back, it was just a matter of them getting focused and owning what we have to do to win the championship. Of course it was not always that easy. We've had struggles with their games. We lost to UP [in the eliminations] early in the season, we came back and had a very difficult loss again in Game 2 [of the Finals at 88-68]. But this team handles adversity well—within games, within the season. They've always had the ability to bounce back.
FORMULA FOR VICTORY
We came out with more energy and we were more focused on what we want to do. We played defense, which was something we didn't do in Game 2. We came out with a lot more energy. More important, we really attacked them offensively. We were very passive in Game 2, but in Game 3 we were very aggressive in attacking the rim right from the start of the game. We were able to run the fastbreaks and just break down their defense.
GAME 2 AFTERMATH
Believe it or not, we had a game plan in Game 2. I put the game plan on the board once again. I showed them the tape afterwards and I asked them straight: Do you think you followed me? Do you think you executed what I wanted done? And they agreed that they did not. So they all dedicated themselves to following the game plan [in Game 3]. I think we just came out with more energy. We had no energy the last game. But [in Game 3], we came out hungry right from the very start, we were on attack mode right from the very start.
They say that experience is the best teacher. Some of us here experienced the loss to UST [in Game 3 of the Finals] in 2006. We just explained to the players who weren't here that it's something we don't want to feel again. We did not want the younger players to experience what we went through. And all we had to do was come back and win the championship. We don't want to throw away our season.
PHOTO: RYAN ONG
INTERVIEW: JASMINE PAYO