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Baldwin sees 'valuable' UAAP Season 86 for Blue Eagles despite semis exit

MANILA, Philippines -- A glass half full.

Despite failing to defend their UAAP championship this season, the Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin is sticking to the positives of a “roller coaster” season for the Blue Eagles.

They got the boot against the UP Fighting Maroons Saturday afternoon, 57-46, in their Season 86 semis duel.

According to Baldwin, this season “can be very, very valuable” for Ateneo, looking ahead.

“We're going to learn our lessons, were going to continue to develop and grow. And I think that the team that you saw this year will be almost intact when the team takes the floor next year. So this can be a very, very valuable season for the Blue Eagles and and our future,” the coach told reporters after their loss.

This is Ateneo’s first season in the Baldwin era that they did not reach the finals.

“We've just come out of an amazing era of Blue Eagle basketball. It's very difficult to continue that, just uninterrupted. There were so many disruptions in our program with the pandemic and players leaving before their eligibility was finished, and it impacted our recruiting,” he said.

“And we had to contend with all of that. And I think, you know, the conspiracy of circumstances sort of caught up with us a bit this year. So we're looking at this year now as as a bridge to what we hope will be a new era of success for Blue Eagle basketball. So we're going to be optimistic."

It was a literally up-and-down season for the Blue Eagles, as they finished the elimination round with a 7-7 win-loss record.

On Saturday, the defending champions figured in a low-scoring affair, but UP pulled away late to secure their third straight finals appearance.

Baldwin bared that the team battled some injuries in their do-or-die clash, with Raffy Celis, Andrew Bongo and Gab Gomez not being available.

Chris Koon, who led the Blue Eagles in scoring and in minutes played, was playing with a fracture in his foot, Baldwin said.

“You know, it was a really weird season. You know. We battled to be better all the time to grow to develop. We battled a lot of injuries,” he said.

“It's just that kind of season, you know, just sort of a fractured season, if you will. But these guys showed a