Last May 1, University of the Philippines stopped Ateneo de Manila University’s 39-game winning streak at the end of the elimination round. Seven days later, they repeated in a much more important setting.
The Fighting Maroons moved on the cusp of their first championship in 36 years. They defeated defending, three-time champions Blue Eagles in overtime, 81-74, to take Game One of the UAAP Season 84 men’s basketball best-of-three finals, Sunday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Trailing by three in extra period, UP unleashed eight straight points via Zavier Lucero’s three; Ricci Rivero’s and-one; and Carl Tamayo’s layup for a 79-74 lead with 2:04 left.
“Maraming ups and downs nangyari on both ends, but we just kept reminding each other not to give up,” said UP coach Goldwin Monteverde.
Down by six with less than a minute to go, UP rookie Tamayo was fouled but he missed both his shots from the line. Fortunately, Lucero grabbed the offensive board and converted an and-one play. That brought UP within a single possession, 67-70, with 32.6 seconds to go.
The Fighting Maroons then forced an Ateneo turnover on the other end. Ange Kouame could not handle the inbound pass from Gian Mamuyac to give UP back the ball with 27.6 seconds remaining. That resulted in a James Spencer three-pointer from the edge of the MOA Arena logo for the tie with 24.7 ticks left.
The Blue Eagles then committed a 24-second violation. Rivero missed a wild Hail Mary shot to send the game to an added five minutes.
Rivero had 19 points, including a flawless 11-of-11 from the free-throw line. Lucero got 17 points, 13 rebounds, and two blocks.
Spencer also stepped up with 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the field. Malick Diouf – who fouled out with 4:42 left in overtime – finished with 10 points, 15 rebounds, four assists, three steals, and a block.
Kouame led the Blue Eagles with 18 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks, four assists, and two steals. SJ Belangel and Raffy Verano each tallied 17 points as well.
Dave Ildefonso was limited to just six points on 2-of-6 shooting while committing six turnovers.
The Fighting Maroons will aim for the title while Ateneo will seek to equalize in Game Two on Wednesday, 6:00 PM.
UP 81 –– Rivero 19, Lucero 17, Spencer 13, Diouf 10, Tamayo 10, Cagulangan 4, Alarcon 4, Abadiano 4, Fortea 0, Ramos 0.
Ateneo 74 — Kouame 18, Belangel 17, Verano 17, Mamuyac 7, Ildefonso 6, Andrade 3, Chiu 2, Koon 2, Daves 2, Tio 0, Padrigao 0.
Quarterscores: 17-19, 32-31, 49-54, 70-70, 81-74.