At first glance, the “Battle of Katipunan” that’s about to take place does not seem to be much of a rivalry at all.
The defending champion Ateneo Blue Eagles have the odds stacked in their favor when they clash with the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons at 3:30 p.m. today in Game 1 of the 81st University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball best-of-three finals at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Fighting Maroons have won over the Blue Eagles just three times in a span of 15 years and UP may not be able to post even one win in their best-of-three championship showdown.
Coach Sandy Arespacochaga, speaking on behalf of Tab Baldwin, said they are ready to elevate their game against UP to another level, given the huge support that UP fans give the Fighting Maroons.
“That’s the right kind of approach that we want our players to take, try to elevate their game and not be distracted by any physical contact or pain they experience during the game,” said Arespacochaga.
But the Fighting Maroons will be a driven team going into Game 1, especially after their 89-87 overtime triumph in their Final Four rubber match with the Adamson Falcons last Wednesday.
“It gives us a semblance of confidence despite what we have, despite the mismatches and those we experienced,” said Fighting Maroons coach Bo Perasol.
Teammates Bright Akhuetie, Paul Desiderio and Juan Gomez de Liano are expected to once again step up and come out fighting to move closer to UP’s first UAAP crown in 32 years.
And that’s even if UP is considered as the underdogs in the Battle of Katipunan, which is a clash for the crown among neighboring schools in Quezon City.
This season, UP has not won against the Ateneo.
In the first round, the Blue Eagles avenged their opening day loss to Adamson by beating the Maroons, 87-79 on September 12. Blue Eales Thirdy Ravena, Anton Asistio, and Angelo Kouame made their presence felt.
In the second round, the Blue Eagles were without the Nieto twins: Matt and Mike, but Ateneo still demolished UP, 83-66, last October 14, with Tyler Tio and Raffy Verano joining Ravena in coming up with the numbers.
And the last time UP came up with victory over Ateneo was two years ago when Gelo Vito knocked down a triple with 16.4 seconds for a 56-52 triumph on October 8, 2016.
“If we can be resilient, we can still pursue our dream of winning,” said Perasol.
The Blue Eagles will bank on the game of two leaders, Angelo Kouame and Thirdy Ravena.
Kouame norms 22 minutes on the floor, and can dish out 14.4 points, 13.6 rebounds and 3.2 blocks. Ravena is good for 22.4 minutes, 12.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists.
The Fighting Maroons has season MVP Akhuetie Bright, who is on the floor for an average of 32.4 minutes, and can produce 18.9 points, 14.6 boards and 2.8 assist every game.
Teammate Juan Gomez de Liano, on average, can give 16.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 5.5 assists, while Paul Desiderio has norms of 13.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.1 steals.
In the women’s finals, the unbeaten National University Lady Bulldogs will start their finals match with Far Eastern University at 1 p.m.
READ: Battle of the birds begins
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