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Friday, July 26, 2024

UP nears 2nd straight UAAP hoops crown

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The defending champion University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons are close to something they haven’t achieved before—claim a second consecutive crown in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball wars.

MAROONS UP. James Spencer of the University of the Philippines pulls up for a shot over Ateneo’s Bryan Andrade in Game 1 of the UAAP Men’s Basketball Finals on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City. UAAP Media Bureau

The Maroons limited the Ateneo Blue Eagles to just a point in the last two minutes to eke out a 72-66 win Sunday night in Game 1 of the 85th season best-of-three finals at the Mall of Asia Arena. Zavier Lucero struck with a team-high 14 points and hauled 11 rebounds for the Fighting Maroons, who will be shooting for a title sweep of the series in Game 2 on Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum.

The Blue Eagles, who bungled four attempts and turned the ball over once in the last two minutes, got a game-high 16 points from Rence Padrigao.

“We started well defensively. The movement of the ball was there. I like the way the team looked for the open man,” said Fighting Maroons’ coach Goldwin Monteverde at the end of their showdown, known as the “Battle of Katipunan.”

With a total weekend crowd of 18,211 watching, the Fighting Maroons unleashed a 10-2 run at the 7:22 mark, highlighted by two triples from Harold Alarcon, to break away from a slim 58-56 lead into a 68-58 spread off Carl Tamayo’s driving shot in the final 4:39.

BJ Andade’s twinner, Joshua Lazaro’s split, and Angelo Kouame’s driving attempt put the Eagles to within five, 65-70, but they were held to 4 out of 14 field goal attempts in the final two minutes, where they were only able to score on Dave Ildefonso’s lone free throw with 1:26 to, 66-70.

Lucero then kept the ball away from Ateneo as the clock winded down, by hauling three of UP’s four rebounds off the Eagles’ misses in the final 1:23.

The Maroons, with Joel Cagulangan making 12 points and eight rebounds, have never been known to claim back-to-back titles since their first title conquest in 1986.

Ateneo, which is on its sixth consecutive finals appearance, got 15 points and 10 boards from Kouame.

“Tough game for us. They scored more points than we wanted them to. They got on the boards, they rebounded well. Couple of big plays for them. We got to make sure that we will address this,” said Blue Eagles’ assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga.

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