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Ateneo forces do-or-die game


Game Monday:

(Araneta Coliseum)

6:00 p.m. — UP vs Ateneo


Not today.

Ateneo de Manila University lived to fight another day, weathering the defending champion University of the Philippines’ searing fightback to escape with a 65-55 win in Game 2 of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 85 men’s basketball finals series at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Wednesday night.

With their backs against the wall, the Blue Eagles played with a sense of urgency as they kept pressuring the Fighting Maroons on defense to tie the best-of-three series to 1-1 in front of a 20,616-strong crowd.

For the second straight season, the series goes to a rubber match. Game 3 is on Monday at the same venue.

“We lived to fight another day. Both of these teams, our monikers are something about fighting. Everybody saw what sports fighting is about tonight,” Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin said.

“That’s the kind of game that we all sort of expect in the Finals.”

Ange Kouame posted a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds laced with three steals and three blocks to lead Ateneo. Kai Ballungay who was scoreless in the series opener finished with 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting and five rebounds in 19 minutes of action while Forthsky Padrigao got 11 markers and seven boards for the Blue Eagles.

Mythical team member Carl Tamayo scored seven of UP’s 10-4 run that chipped the Fighting Maroons’ 15-point deficit early in the fourth to 54-63 with 4:46 left before Kouame stopped Ateneo’s bleeding.

Ateneo seemed to have solved the puzzle of UP’s swarming defense that punished the white and blue-clad squad in the series opener, 66-72, last Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

It was the Blue Eagles’ turn to frustrate the Fighting Maroons’ offense.

Tamayo led UP with 15 points, JD Cagulangan had 11 while Terrence Fortea got nine markers. Malick Diouf struggled on the day he received his season Most Valuable Player award as was limited to just two points, hitting his lone field goal in the last 3:32 of the third quarter with the Fighting Maroons down, 42-50.

UP also lost Zavier Lucero from an apparent left knee injury with 8:31 left in the game. His knee buckled as he drove to the basket without making any contact with his defender. Lucero, who had a double-double in Game 1, had six points and pulled down 11 boards.

The Blue Eagles played a physical game in the first half.

Ateneo pounded the ball from underneath, scoring 20 points from the paint with frontliners Kouame, Ballungay and Geo Chiu bullying their way to the basket with UP center Diouf getting whistled with two early fouls that limited him to just six minutes of action in the first half.

The Blue Eagles held a slim 20-19 lead after the first 10 minutes of the match before pushing their cushion to 39-30 after Mythical team member Padrigao nailed a three with under two minutes left in the second period.

Geo Chiu converted a basket from under the basket to enter the half with a 41-33 lead.

Diouf was scoreless in the first half with only one attempt from the field.


The Scores:

ATENEO (65) — Kouame 19, Ballungay 15, Padrigao 11, Daves 6, Chiu 6, Ildefonso 3, Gomez 2, Lazaro 2, Koon 1, Quitevis 0, Andrade 0.

UP (55) — Tamayo 15, Cagulangan 11, Fortea 9, Lucero 6, Alarcon 5, Abadiano 4, Diouf 2, Galinato 2, Spencer 1, Gonzales 0, Calimag 0, Lina 0.

Quarters: 20-19, 41-33, 57-44, 65-55.


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