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Eagles humbled with surprising Finals stint

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Many did not expect the Ateneo Blue Eagles to return to the UAAP Finals this year after three years of absence, and them many included Ateneo Coach Tab Baldwin.

But after surging late in the competition and beating then defending champions FEU in a nail biting 69-68 UAAP Final Four Game 2, Baldwin is lost of words over Ateneo’s surprising dream run for the title.

“Not sure what to do with these emotions I’m feeling. These boys humble me with that effort,” Baldwin, who also coached Gilas, said over Twitter.

“The magnitude of FEU’s challenge, the brilliance of [FEU Coach] Nash’s tactics and the fight of each player makes this win special,” Baldwin added.

Ateneo big man Isaac Go stepped up when it mattered most vs. FEU, even enduring a bloody nose in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Go finished with 12 points and 14 rebounds, including the lone Ateneo basket in the extended minutes to book the last ticket to the Finals.

It will be Ateneo’s first Finals appearance since it won five straight UAAP titles from 2008 to 2012.

Months before the season started, the former Gilas mentor was tapped by Ateneo as consultant to coach Sandy Arespacochaga. Midway of the first round, Baldwin took charge of the coaching helm which sparked the difference for the second-seeded team.

The Game 1 of the UAAP Finals will begin on December 3. (Alex Cerado)