ATENEO Blue Eagles’ Tio Tyler attempting a basket over two FEU Tamaraws. — UAAP

By John Bryan Ulanday

ARCHRIVALS Ateneo and La Salle prime up against different opponents on Thursday to maintain perfect slates and a joint lead ahead of their highly-anticipated clash this weekend in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 84 at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Pacing the league’s footrace under a compressed season due to a bubble setting, the three-time defending champion Blue Eagles (2-0) on a 28-game rampage collide with Adamson (1-1) at 10 a.m. followed by the match of Green Archers (2-0) versus Far Eastern University (FEU) (1-1) at 1 p.m.

University of the Philippines (UP) (1-1), then, shoots for a second straight victory against revenge-seeking National University (NU) (1-1) at 4 p.m. before the battle of winless squads between University of the East (UE) (0-2) and Santo Tomas (0-2) in the main game at 7 p.m.

The separate acts of Ateneo and La Salle serve as a fitting prelude to their early collision course on Saturday with hopes of keeping an unblemished card by then to cap off UAAP’s loaded opening week.

Both squads took care of their first two assignments so far with Ateneo clobbering UP, 90-81, and FEU, 79-70. La Salle, for its part, carved out wins against UE, 71-66, and NU, 59-55.

For the Blue Eagles, their 2-0 start stretched their winning streak since 2018 to 28 games which, however, should be the least of their concerns moving forward according to coach Tab Baldwin.

“Those games are behind us and they’re irrelevant now. The only game that matters now is Adamson. We’re just worried about what’s in front of us, not what’s behind us,” he said.

The Green Archers under returning mentor Derrick Pumaren, likewise, are taking it one step at a time built on a defense-first mantra after limiting their first two opponents to only 60.5 points.

“Defense is a weapon for us offensively. We always try to make a stop and force the other team to throw the basketball away,” said Mr. Pumaren, who steered La Salle to its first UAAP title in 1989, on their clash against FEU.