UAAP basketball: Ateneo escapes UP, forces do-or-die for championship
MANILA, Philippines — Ateneo kept its fourth straight title hopes alive, denying University of the Philippines’ fightback in Game 2, 69-66, and forcing a decider in the UAAP Season 84 men’s basketball Finals on Wednesday at Mall of Asia Arena.
Ange Kouame, who was crowned as Season MVP moments before Game 2, kept the Blue Eagles afloat when the Fighting Maroons fought back from a 15-point deficit in the third quarter and even took a one-point lead in the payoff period.
The Gilas Pilipinas naturalized center delivered 14 points, 14 rebounds and eight blocks in front of 13,521 fans.
The winner-take-all game for the championship is on Friday at 6 pm.
“Tonight we responded and we did the job in key statistical categories. Everything else in stat sheets looks good for us,” said the Blue Eagles coach Tab Baldwin after they bounced back from an 81-74 overtime loss in Game One.
“This series feels like La Salle series. It doesn’t feel like college basketball. It feels like there’s something else at stake,” added Baldwin, talking about Ateneo’s 2017 Finals duel with La Salle that reached Game 3.
The Blue Eagles mounted a 15-point lead early in the third quarter, 45-30, from Tyler Tio’s lay-up and Josh Lazaro’s jumper.
But the Fighting Maroons displayed their never-say-die spirit with Malick Diouf scoring six straight points to embark a 27-11 run capped by Carl Tamayo’s corner trey, giving UP its first lead, 57-56, at the final five-minute mark.
Kouame refused to suffer another meltdown as he restored the orders for Ateneo giving his squad a 63-61 breather off an offensive rebound from his missed free throw.
SJ Belangel also came to the rescue stretching their lead to 65-61 off Gian Mamuyac’s steal and stole the ball at the 48.9-second mark that led to the latter’s lay-up for a 69-63 spread.
Ricci Rivero trimmed the lead, 69-65, with 37.2 ticks left. But he split his free throws after drawing a foul in the final two seconds, failing to complete another comeback.
Tio also scored 14 points. Dave Ildefonso chipped in 10 points, eight rebounds, four rebounds and two steals, while Mamuyac and Belangel added seven and six markers, respectively.
Ateneo, which had 26 turnovers in Game One, limited its errors to 16 and forced 20 miscues from UP, where it easily got 20 points.
Tamayo, the season’s top rookie and mythical five member, led the Maroons with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Rivero had 16 points, four boards and four steals, while JD Cagulangan, Zavier Lucero and Diouf added eight markers each with the Senegalese center grabbing 13 rebounds.
ATENEO 69 — Kouame 14, Tio 14, Ildefonso 10, Mamuyac 7, Belangel 6, Koon 6, Verano 4, Lazaro 3, Andrade 3, Chiu 2, Daves 0.
UP 66 — Tamayo 18, Rivero 16, Cagulangan 8, Lucero 8, Diouf 8, Alarcon 5, Spencer 3, Fortea 0, Abadiano 0, Lina 0.
Quarters: 17-16, 37-28, 49-45, 69-66.
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