The Ateneo Blue Eagles are still alive and breathing after defeating the defending champs UST Growling Tigers 69-64 in the 2007 UAAP step ladder phase. The Blue Eagles leaned on Chris Tiu, Ford Arao, and the surprise plays of the lightly-regarded Severino Baclao and Mike Baldos to pull off the win. Arao topscored for Ateneo with 17 points followed by Tiu with 14 markers. But it was the unexpected contribution of Baclao and Baldos that spelled the difference.
Baclao, a transferee from West Negros College, added 11 points, 8 rebounds and 3 shot blocks while Baldos had a productive 7 points in just 5 minutes to set the tone for the match. Before the contest, Baldos played in only 5 games for the Blue Eagles. Baclao collared a pair of crucial rebounds in the closing minutes that foiled USTâ€™s comeback.
The Tigers didn’t get good games from their main men Jervy Cruz and Khasim Mirza. Cruz, the leading candidate for UAAP MVP, finished with 17 points and 16 rebounds but was horrible from the field. He hit only 6 of his 21 shots, including a horrible 1 of 12 shooting in the second half. Mirza finished with only 2 points on 1-9 shooting. Dylan Ababou was a bright spot for the team chipping in with 16 points and grabbing 11 caroms.
The Blue Eagles face the De La Salle Green Archers on Thursday with a twice-to-beat disadvantage.
Meanwhile, a visibly dejected Pido Jarencio of UST was in tears after an emotional postgame talk with his players. He’s still unsure if he’ll still coach the Growling Tigers next season.