After coasting through the elimination round, the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles took everything the National University Bulldogs dished out and kept their three-peat aspirations alive.
The Blue Eagles absorbed the Bulldogs’ big hits and made all the big plays down the stretch to take Game One of the best-of-three Finals, 25-22, 21-25, 22-25, 25-18, 15-13, at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.
NU squandered a golden opportunity in the first set, allowing Ateneo to erase their 11-3 lead. Trailing 20-21, the Blue Eagles went on a rampage sparked by Tony Koyfman, who scored three consecutive points and led Ateneo to a 24-21 lead. Marck Espejo put the finishing touches on the comeback with a thunderous cross-court hit.
The second frame saw NU race to another early lead, 8-3, only for the Blue Eagles to once again rally back. After Ateneo came within one, 18-19, the Bulldogs took their turn mustering a finishing rally thanks to clutch hits from Bryan Bagunas and Fauzi Ismail. After taking a 24-21 advantage, the Bulldogs went to Bagunas to formally tie the match at a set apiece.
Neither team pulled away early in the third set. It took consecutive Ateneo miscommunications for NU to grab a 21-18 lead. Espejo tried to bring his Eagles back, but Ismail responded to his every hit. Down 1-2 in sets for the first time this season, the Blue Eagles dominated the fourth set from the start to force a decider.
Ateneo nearly had an easy route to the win after sprinting to a 13-8 cushion, but the Bulldogs made a last ditch run thanks to Bagunas’ serving. Tied at 13, the Blue Eagles went to Marck Espejo to notch set point, then pulled a block from Rex Intal to close the match.
“Great game. I always tell them (Blue Eagles) that NU is a great team, but the minds of the players will make us the champions. The resiliency, and the heart they’re showing, I can’t say anything less for my players,” said Ateneo head coach Oliver Almadro.
Three-time MVP Marck Espejo tallied a season-high 29 points, while American opposite hitter Tony Koyfman added 18. Three-time Best Setter Ish Polvorosa tossed 60 excellent sets.
Game Two will be on Saturday, 12 pm, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Fauzi Ismail and Bryan Bagunas powered NU with 22 and 19 points apiece. This is the first time NU went to five sets against Ateneo since Season 77.
ADMU (3) – Espejo 29, Koyfman 18, Villanueva 14, Intal 11, Polvorosa 4, Baysa 3, Medalla 2, Glorioso 0, Rivera 0, Sumanguid (L)
NU (2) – Ismail 22, Bagunas 19, Saura 11, Malabunga 10, Natividad 6, Ancheta 0, Dayandante 0, Marcos (L), Sumaguid (L)
NU-NS Bullpups clinch playoff berth as FEU-D locks down AHS in UAAP 82 Boys’ Basketball
Evan Nelle goes AWOL in San Beda, looking at La Salle transfer
Jack Santiago to be named as UE Red Warriors head coach
Third times the charms for Iloilo as homegrown Jeruta makes sure to bag win
Project Ethan Kirkness commits to UP
Foton to sign Jasmine Nabor, denies tapping Bernadeth Pons
SBP eyes Sage Tolentino, more stalwarts as additions to Gilas pool
Dave Ildefonso returns home to Ateneo
Jeremiah Gray steps up on both ends, lifts Alab past Fubon in ABL
Alab Pilipinas absorb first home loss at hands of Purves’ Wolf Warriors
Roosevelt Adams picked by Columbian as top pick in PBA Regular Draft
Isaac Go goes to Columbian in PBA Draft’s special Gilas portion
- Basketball4 days ago
Juan Gomez de Liaño still undecided on UP return
- CSJL2 days ago
Michael Imperial powers EAC Generals rout of Letran to open NCAA 95 bid
- ADMU4 days ago
Ravena offers advice to Ildefonso: ‘Good luck na lang sa kanya kay Coach Tab’
- 2021 FIBA Asia Cup3 days ago
Javi GDL relieved to be part of Gilas pool after so many cuts