Playing a more focused game will be the key to victory for the defending champion Ateneo Blue Eagles, who want to beat the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons and claim the 81st University Athletic Association of the Philippines men’s basketball crown.
For the Fighting Maroons, the return of big man Bright Akhuetie and a better defensive effort will allow them to survive Game 2 their best-of-three series with the Blue Eagles.
Gametime is 3:30 p.m.
The Blue Eagles will be shooting for their 10th crown since joining the league 1979, while the Fighting Maroons aim to stretch the finals to a deciding Game 3 on Saturday.
Blue Eagles’ coach Sandy Arespacochaga, speaking on behalf of head mentor Tab Baldwin, said for the team to be focused, they have to avoid having an emotional matchup with the Fighting Maroons.
Doing so will allow the Blue Eagles to maintain their killer instinct throughout the game.
“Emotion is good. But you have to make sure that it doesn’t force you to lose focus,” said Arespacochaga.
Earlier, the National University Bulldogs will go for their fifth straight crown when they meet Far Eastern University at 11 a.m. in Game 2 of the women’s finals.
The Maroons showed their fighting heart and were able to withstand many rallies that the Eagles came up against them, even after they lost big man Bright to a knee injury in the third period.
But the Blue Eagles bucked the return of Akhuetie as they went on to post an 88-79 win last Saturday.
“If we hold on to our focus until the end, we will still have a chance. Against Ateneo, you can’t sleep, you can’t lose focus for a bit,” said UP coach Bo Perasol.
For Baldwin, the Eagles need to keep the killer instinct and never let up against UP.
“It’s something that we’ve talked about, what’s our attitude when we have a big lead? It’s not just the start of the third quarter, it could be at the start of the fourth quarter, it could be anytime,” said Baldwin.
In Game 1, it was the Blue Eagles’ late rally which came at the right time in the final quarter that sealed UP’s fate.
The Fighting Maroons, who are in the finals for the first time in 32 years, drew 19 points from June Manzo and are hoping to equalize on Wednesday.
The last time around, Matthew Nieto led with a career-high 27 points and Thirdy Ravena struck with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
“I’m surprised of the production of Matt and Thirdy. That was a good thing that we did not notice it. It was part of the flow of our offense, of the plays that we call. Both of them delivered, and it was not a conscious effort to make sure that the two of them score,” added Arespacochaga.