MANILA, Philippines – The Fighting Maroons won Game 1 of their UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament championship match up with a thrilling 72-66 victory on Sunday night at the Mall of Asia Arena. University of the Philippines unleashed too many weapons that Ateneo found difficult to counter.
The defending champs were getting closer to defending their title when Harold Alarcon’s corner three sparked a significant run midway through the fourth. The Maroons were able to maintain the necessary distance the rest of the way.
The Maroons can sweep the best-of-three series on Wednesday thanks to the 14 points, 10 rebounds, and two important blocks recorded by Zavier Lucero, one of which was the difference-maker.
With 32 seconds remaining, the Blue Eagles could have had a chance to turn the game around, but a massive block by Lucero on Ange Kouame below stopped them.
For UP, who aim to go down in history as the only team to win two titles in a single year, JD Cagulangan sealed the victory with a pair of free throws.
The No. 1 fast-breaking team this season, the Maroons, forged ahead early with a double-digit lead thanks to the contributions of Cyril Gonzales, Harold Alarcon, and JD Cagulangan, who came out firing on all cylinders for the Maroons in the first half.
They were able to increase their lead by making strong contributions from the bench in addition to running breaks effectively and taking advantage of Ateneo’s costly mistakes.
They were given a five-point lead by Forthsky Padrigao’s floater, an open three-pointer by Dave Ildefonso, and another deep triple by Padrigao over Zavier Lucero’s extended arms.
In the following play, Cagulangan collected the rebound ahead of everyone else and sprinted the length of the court as the UP offense connected with Lucero for a buzzer-beating layup to give them a 42 to 35 lead at the break.
The third period saw no change in the pattern, with the Maroons maintaining a four-point lead going into the fourth.
The Blue Eagles were only kept in the game by Padrigao’s trip to the bench after scoring 16 points despite injuring his right foot.
For the duration of the game, Ateneo’s starting point guard sat still in his seat in front of 18,211 ecstatic blue and maroon supporters.
Scores at the end of the match
UP with 72 points
Individual scores: Lucero had 14, Cagulangan had 12, Alarcon had 11, Diouf had 9, Tamayo had 7, Galinato had 6, Spencer had 5, Fortea had 0, and Abadiano had zero.
ATENEO with 66 points
Individual scores: Padrigao: 16, Kouame: 15, Ildefonso: 10, Andrade: 10, Koon: 9, Lazaro: 3, Chiu: 2, Gomez: 1, Ballungay: 0, Daves: 0, Quitevis: 0, Lao: 0
Scores per quarter:
28 to 19, 42 to 35, 54 to 50, and 72 to 66