The game is done.
I must say, however, that this is the first finals loss where I do not feel bad.
In 2001, I felt bad. That was prolonged agony. In 2006, I really felt crushed because we shouldn’t have lost that series and it was in such heartbreaking fashion.
This 2016? My heart is swelling with pride. Against a juggernaut team that is La Salle? This must be how all the other schools felt when we were killing them during the five-peat – that a loss was all but inevitable and a sure thing aside death and taxes. Remember when Larry Bird boldly strode into the locker room prior to the 1988 Three-Point Shootout on All-Star Weekend and asked who was playing for second? It was this sort of season for La Salle.
It’s fine. Besides, we blemished what should have been a perfect season for them and put the scare of God into them in Game One. Game Two was where their experience, depth, and talent came into play.
The game is done.
There are two numbers – not exactly statistics if you will -- that we should be mindful and consider for the future.
The first is the Ateneo Blue Eagles finished in second place. I believe I do not have to explain what happened before and during the season overcoming all that adversity and what. Repeating it is like reciting a litany of sorrowful mysteries. Second place is as good as first considering other teams were figured to be here.
And second, is three and two.
Yes, three and two. Matt and Mike Nieto, Adrian Wong, Aaron Black, Thirdy Ravena, and Isaac Go have three more playing years to go. Jolo Mendoza and Raffy Verano will have four more.
Now that is a solid eight-man rotation that will flat out kill foes for years to come. The pieces have fallen into place and we just need to add a few more here and there.
Last year, they got a taste of Final Four action. This year, it was the Finals. That young and yet, so competitive and filled to bursting with potential. Experience is the best teacher. And speaking of teachers, we’ve got a terrific coach in Tab Baldwin.
After Isaac Go committed that unwarranted foul in the endgame to send La Salle to the line, he went up to coach. They talked. He placed his head on his coach who reciprocated by giving him a playful tap on the cheek.
That moment for me was the season in a capsule – the raw talent, the lack of experience, the great teacher, and the right kind of compassion.
And that leads me to the last thing I’d like to say.
If you went up from the Ateneo Grade school to High School, and to College, there is this prayer – that was written by American poet Berton Braley and popularized by the Nebraska Cornhusker’s Football Team -- that we were taught to recite.
Dear Lord, the battle we go through in life,
We ask for a chance that’s fair,
A chance to equal our strides,
A chance to do or dare,
If we should win,
Let it be by the code,
With faith and honor held high,
If we should lose,
We’ll stand by the road,
and cheer as the winners go by.
The game is done. And right up to the very end, the Ateneo Blue Eagles gave it that One Big Fight. They played the game the right way and with the right conduct. Now that is all we ever ask... win or lose.