On the Trail of Champions: Bad Dreams

The Ateneo Blue Eaglets sing the Alma Mater Song one last time
in Season 74 after bowing to the FEU-FER Baby Tamaraws.
(image by Tito Pavia/Fabilioh.com)

A week after the bitter defeat, I’ve finally mustered enough chutzpah to write a closure to the Ateneo Blue Eaglets’ Season 74.

We’ve all had bad dreams, right? You know you have.

There’s the dream where you’re walking down a crowded street with everyone smiling at you, seemingly celebrating your presence. And then just when you start to wave at them to acknowledge their adulation, their smiles turn to laughter – the laughter that’s derisive and degrading. And then you look down and see why – you’re drenched in the stark glory of your birthday suit. You struggle to cover up, but it’s too late. There you are, bare and exposed, for all the world to consume in ridiculous grandeur.

Or maybe the one where you’re taking a late night stroll with the girl of your dreams. You move closer to her, your fingers touching as the moonbeams shower both of you with silvery slivers of light. You stop by a lamppost, put your arms around her waist, and then meet her gaze as the cold evening air envelopes the moment. But just when you’re about to kiss her, she smiles and bares her truth – that she has fangs for teeth, and that all around her the soil lumps and breaks, revealing zombies unearthed straight from the bowels of hell. It’s like Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video, only worse because there are no dance routines here.

Now THAT's the face of a bad dream, eh?
(image from calitreview.com)
Bad dreams. They start out right and, somehow, somewhere down the road, a wicked twist brings everything crashing down, revealing the deep, dark secrets of the many horrors waiting to happen.

In many ways, that’s exactly what happened to the Ateneo Blue Eaglets in their last game against the FEU-FERN Baby Tamaraws. And on some level, it accurately describes how this entire past season went as well.

The Eaglets started the Final Four rubber match really well, utilizing sticky defense to frustrate FEU’s star guard Jerie Pingoy and aggressive offense to put the pressure on coach Michael Oliver’s zone. Forward Tomas Ramos, who was hampered by foul trouble in the first game, drove freely to the lane and converted twice while Aaron Black unloaded a jumper and an and-1 lay-up to typify the Eaglets’ quick start. The early tallies were promising, as Ateneo mounted a majestic 19-6 lead with under 20 ticks to go in quarter #1.

Aaron Black goes up for a fast break lay-up
in Game 2 of Ateneo's Final 4 match-up with FEU.
(image by Tito Pavia/Fabilioh.com)
And then the nightmare began.

With Pingoy earning 2 quick fouls and consequently riding the bench earlier than expected, the Baby Tams had a lot of difficulty finding any rhythm on offense. Coach Oliver took a big gamble putting him back in for one last play in the opening stanza, hoping for a spark that could ignite his team’s chances.

He got what he asked for as Pingoy drove the length of the court and pulled up right on the arc. His rainbow jumper fell through the hoop and found the bottom of the net. His foot was on the line, so it was ruled as just a deuce, but the damage had been done. That single basket was the proverbial crack in Ateneo’s dam, eventually causing a deluge of Green and Gold.

The Blue & White would get outscored 55-37 the rest of the way, and, despite clinging to the halftime lead and staying within striking distance till the waning minutes, it was clear that the Baby Tams had the Loyola quintet figured out. Unheralded wingman Joshua Aguilon spearheaded the 2nd half surge of FEU, burying jumpers from all over the floor on the way to a game-high 21 points. In the meantime, the Ateneans groped for form as they missed more shots than they made. Open jumpers clanged off the rim, inside forays went awry, and free throws, oh those damned free throws, just wouldn’t sink.

Tomas Ramos and the rest of the Eaglets struggled
with their shots in the 2nd half.
(image by Tito Pavia/Fabilioh.com)
In the end, the Eaglets’ valiant last stand crumbled amidst the Tamaraws’ hunger and hustle. FEU was the better team on that day, and they deserved to advance to the Finals (they are now leading that series 1-0 against the NU Bullpups).

So what went wrong?

Oh why bother? The coaching staff has certainly pored over every nook and cranny of that game and I’m sure they know what the Xs and the Os are. They’ll adjust. They’ll fine-tune the machinery. They’ll be back.

With a vengeance.

Anton Asistio will come back next season to try and
lead the redemptive campaign of the Eaglets.
(image by Tito Pavia/Fabilioh.com)
Looking back at the whole season, it’s tempting to dwell on the “what ifs” and “what might have beens,” but all that is fodder for folly. What if this guy played more minutes? What if that guy was still on the team? What if this or that defense should’ve been used?

So what?

We have a team that clawed its way beyond most people’s expectations. We have a team that beat every single team in the UAAP at least once. We have a team that made the Final Four for the Nth time, and was just a few shots away from another Juniors Finals. We have a team that went on a 5-game winning streak to finish 2nd in the standings after the first round. We have a team that bounced back after debilitating losses mid-season. We have a team that played through injuries and internal issues. We have a team that fought every single game.

We have a team we can be proud of.

Kris Porter was the season-long leader of
an Eaglets squad that played beyond expectations.
(image by Tito Pavia/Fabilioh.com)
And, at the end of the day, at the end of the season, that’s what matters most, right?

And though, for some, that might be small consolation for the “bad dream” that was Season 74, remember this:

What comes at the end of every bad dream?

We wake up. Sometimes we scream. Sometimes we feel cold sweat on our skin. Sometimes we breathe heavily.

But we wake up, and when we open our eyes, we see.

Because it’s a new day.

A new day.

One BIG Fight!

FEU-FERN 63 – Aguilon 21, Pingoy 18, Luz 8, Delfinado 6, Domingo 4, You 2, Hassan A 2, Estacio 2, Jassan J 0, San Jose 0, Palacio 0
AHS 56 – Porter 14, Ramos 9, Gamboa 9, Black 5, Suarez 5, Asuncion 4, Austria 4, Capacio 2, Asistio 2, Tenorio 2, Ravena 0, Puno 0, Lim 0
QS: 8-19, 22-29, 48-43, 63-56

Kudos to the Blue Eaglet coaching staff, from coach Joe Silva to assistants Jing Naynes, Aris Manalo, Jon Jacinto, and PV Nadal (and everyone else I’m sure I forgot!!!) for giving us a great team this year. Kudos to the seniors (Kris Porter, Tomas Ramos, Kyle Suarez, Fran Asuncion, Jed Austria, Lambert Tenorio, Anjo Ladaban and Kiefer Lim) for showing maturity and leadership throughout the season. May you guys sow the seeds of fruitful careers on and/or off the court as you move on to college next year. Kudos to the underclassmen (Mark Gamboa, Anton Asistio, Mio Puno, Gabe Capacio, Jeo Consunji, Bolek Vitangcol, Aaron Black and Thirdy Ravena) for showing talent and class beyond your years, and for licking the wounds that will make you stronger for next season’s campaign.

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4 Comment

We can't stay champions forever, but that doesn't mean we can't come back and win it again next year...

Help me out here, I haven't been following the Eaglets much. Anyone from this team that could greatly help the Eagles next year?


"[A]s the moonbeams shower both of you with silvery slivers of light."

Silvery silvers? Really?

And I appreciate the dramatic "rallying of the troops" speech, but let's be realistic here. With a huge chuck of the team graduating after this year, there's little hope for the Eaglets to gain any semblance of relevance for a longer period than many of us would care to admit.

This loss stings. Hard. And not only because I didn't get to ride a bus to Araneta to watch the Finals in person along with the other seniors.


Toni: Porter and Ramos have the height and talent to compete, but with a loaded Eagles roster, it's next to impossible they'll be given a spot. If they move elsewhere naman (UP might be interested), I doubt they'll develop into bona fide stars.

Anonymous: Umm... it's actually silvery SLIVERS (sliver as in small, narrow piece). And a huge chunk annually graduates given how about half the team is consistently composed of seniors. but a lot of great up-and-coming talents will take the stage next season. asistio, capacio, gamboa, black and ravena will all play big next season. kobe paras will finally debut and the nieto brothers too. plus some surprises. the future looks good :)


May dugong bughaw din si Aguilon. He studied at the Ateneo de Davao University during his grade school days. He was MVP during his Milo SBP stint, and had other MVP titles in various leagues. No wonder he plays so well. He is the unsung hero for FEU-FERN's rise to fame. We learned that he gave up RP Team 16-Under for FEU's journey in the UAAP. Due credit and recognition should be given to him. The team should maximize his talent.