College of the Philippines stared down the inevitability of Ateneo’s fourth straight championship and discovered itself peering on the risk of a first title in shut to 4 a long time.
The Maroons, flaunting the identical doggedness that allowed them to sail by a stormy semifinal check, shocked the defending champion Blue Eagles, 81-74, in Sport 1 of the UAAP males’s basketball finals on Sunday at Mall of Asia Area.
Ricci Rivero accomplished a clutch three-point play whereas James Spencer drained the second of his two big triples for the night time in time beyond regulation because the Maroons scored 21 of the sport’s final 27 factors after being down eight with lower than 5 minutes remaining in regulation.
“Our staff has gone by so much of ups and downs,” UP coach Goldwyn Monteverde stated after the match.
“However we simply saved reminding one another not to quit. Attempt to be constant within the recreation and carry on preventing till the ultimate buzzer,” he added.
Now, the Maroons have shoved the Blue Eagles right into a scenario they’re fully unfamiliar with: Their backs in opposition to the wall with an opportunity for UP to end a 36-year title drought in Sport 2 on Wednesday.
“Properly, we’ve a 1-0 lead but it surely doesn’t imply something,” Monteverde stated. “We nonetheless want to take a look at what occurred within the recreation and discover methods to enhance.”
He doesn’t want to dig too deep into the tapes to examine for methods to play higher.
At one level, it was simple to chalk up a win for the Blue Eagles after Ange Kouame hit a basket and Raffy Verano plucked an offensive rebound and scored on a putback that pushed the Maroons right into a 60-68 gap, 4:35 to play.
This was, in any case, precisely the sort of scenario the place Ateneo is thought to run an murderer’s blade throughout the jugular. However this was additionally across the identical time simply two nights in the past when UP started overhauling a 14-point deficit to drag a befuddled La Salle out of the semifinals.
Zavier Lucero footed the majority of the comeback duties, draining seven factors in opposition to a lone Verano jumper to put the Maroons within 67-70. After which, fairly uncharacteristically, Ateneo misplaced the sort of machine-like effectivity that had marked its run to the Finals, the place the Eagles have been wanting to notch a fourth straight crown.
Ateneo dedicated 26 turnovers for the night time, which UP translated into 26 factors.
Gian Mamuyac and Kouame mixed for one of these errors-to-points sequences, with the Ateneo skipper throwing an inbounds cross that his 6-foot-10 teammate misplaced to the sidelines. That led to Spencer nailing a three-pointer from at the least two steps behind the arc to knot the rely at 70 with 24 seconds remaining within the fourth.
“Truthfully, I used to be simply considering that my shot was feeling good and if nobody was going to be close to me, I used to be simply going to let it fly,” Spencer stated.
The Maroons’ protection protected the tied rely till the ultimate buzzer. And in time beyond regulation, their protection went into overdrive.
UP held Ateneo to simply 4 factors within the additional interval as Spencer, Rivero and Carl Tamayo made the Eagles pay for each missed likelihood and each fumble.
“We knew what a terrific staff Ateneo is offensively so we simply locked in on protection as a staff,” stated Lucero.
Regardless of taking pictures poorly, the Maroons dug into their locker rooms at halftime barely forward, 32-31, after two intervals of what looks as if a battle of attrition.
UP shot only a shade above 26 % and had eight turnovers whereas making simply 10 area targets within the first half. Ateneo was solely barely higher from the ground, making 12 of 35 makes an attempt from the ground however committing 9 turnovers earlier than the break.
The Maroons scored 9 factors off these turnovers—a portent, it turned out, of what was to come. INQ
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