Rick Olivares (Associated Press) – March 21, 2018 – 11:11am
MANILA, Philippines – AusPinoy Australia bowed out of the 2018 SM-NBTC National Finals after absorbing a 74-55 loss to Ateneo de Manila University during the Sweet 16 round.
Despite the loss, the Fil-Australians remained upbeat about the experience and to date, displayed the best sportsmanship of the three-day old tournament.
Said AusPinoy head coach Roger Mantua after his team exited from the competition, “We have one mission here and that is to compete. We don’t expect to beat any team but we’re here to compete. We didn’t want to come here to the NBTC tournament with illusions of winning it. We aren’t a club team so that makes it difficult. As long as we compete and stay close to the other team, we have a chance. And we go home with our heads up high.”
In the Round of 32, AusPinoy dispatched reigning NBTC Division 2 champions Assumption Montessori School of Cagayan De Oro, 86-79, behind forward Danielle Mallari’s game-high 21 points.
Against Ateneo, the Fil-Australians kept the game close in the early stages but couldn’t get over the hump especially the Blue Eaglet’s massive frontline of seven-foot Kai Sotto and 6’8” Geo Chiu. Ateneo lead throughout the game and led by as much as 27 points. But even Ateneo came away impressed by the visitors.
“They never let up,” said Ateneo head coach Joe Silva after the game. “That shows a good attitude. They never stopped competing.”
“Some of these boys are 15 and 16 years old and they love the experience of playing here,” added Mantua. “More so playing the number one high school basketball team in the Philippines (Ateneo) and the number one player in the Philippines (Kai Sotto).”
“This is my second year. And after the first time, the boys talked about the experience, the physicality. Coming back is even better. Most of them really love it. The adjusted to the style of play.”
And AusPinoy also displayed outstanding sportsmanship.
A few seconds after the final buzzer, the entire AusPinoy team came over to check out on fallen Ateneo Blue Eaglet Amchel Angeles who collapsed in a heap in the final two minutes. Angeles suffered a hamstring injury that prematurely ended his tournament and career with the Blue Eaglets.
Angeles missed Game Three of the recently concluded UAAP juniors finals after being suspended for shoving a NU player during Game Two.
“That was really a sign of true sportsmanship and I really appreciated that they came over,” said Angeles afterwards. “Everyone was asking how I was and they all told me that things will be all right.”
The Fil-Australians were so impressive that several players look to have been recruited by several schools. Gunner Cooper McLaughlin is said to be headed for Ateneo while Danielle Mallari is going to FEU. AusPinoy point guard Jasper Rentoy is also said to have been recruited by the College of St. Benilde.