Ateneo Blue Eaglets claim UAAP juniors title with thrilling win over NU

JR Isaga
Ateneo Blue Eaglets claim UAAP juniors title with thrilling win over NU
Ateneo buried the memory of its Game 2 loss with a nail-biter in the winner-take-all Game 3 over Nazareth School of NU

MANILA, Philippines – The Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) Blue Eaglets nullified its Game 2 loss with a thrilling win in the do-or-die Game 3 over the Nazareth School of National University (NU) Bullpups, 63-58, to claim the UAAP junior baksetball title at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan, Friday, March 2.

Both employing highly defense-oriented plays in the first quarter, no team cracked double-digits score for at least 8 minutes. However, the Eaglets soared until the end, with Jason Credo and Angelo David completing a 9-0 run for the period, 15-6.

Early in the second, Ateneo finally had full control after multiple defensive stops with a 10-point, 22-12 lead. However, RJ Minerva led the gap-closing 9-2 charge, punctuated with a Miguel Oczon midrange that put them within 3, 21-24. In the midst of this, Ateneo star SJ Belangel had a repeat of his Game 2 foul troubles, with his third foul coming 4 minutes before halftime. The Eaglets also had a couple of injury scares to starters Joaqui Manuel and Matt Escalona heading into intermission. Despite this, they still led by 5 at the half, 28-23.

The arena’s energy reached an early fever pitch in the third quarter when the Eaglets were called for 3 quick fouls, including a technical on Ildefonso for faking a foul. In response, Paul Manalang drained huge back-to-back triples to put his team back within striking distance, 29-32. Immediately afterwards, Kai Sotto was called for consecutive offensive and defensive fouls, prompting the Ateneo fans to start chanting “luto” (game-cooking). One fan even threw a small object in the direction of a referee. With the Ateneo groove in shambles, Minerva got deep in the paint to complete the 8-0 run, but the Eaglets still recovered to take a 44-43 lead after three periods.

In the final frame, Terrence Fortea came up huge with a crafty spin move and pull-up triple to boost the lead up to 6, 54-48. However, Belangel and Sotto each nailed crucial and-ones and hit their bonus free-throws to tie the game with two minutes remaining in regulation. Another Sotto tip and Manuel drive later, Ateneo is suddenly up 4 off the 10-2 run with 40 seconds remaining.

Yet still, Oczon refused to give in as he nailed a pull-up trey to close the gap to one, 57-58. Pao Javillonar then split his charities to once again tie the game. But Sotto was too much for the Bullpups as he sank one final putback for the 60-58 lead. NU then blew up their play off the timeout and immediately hacked Belangel, who walked to the line and calmly sank the dagger freebies for the 62-58 separation. For good measure, Ildefonso sank one last free-throw and intentionally missed the second as the Ateneo community erupted in celebration.

Sotto was named the Finals MVP after a double-double performance of 19 points, 13 rebounds and 3 blocks – all team-highs. Belangel closed the final curtain on his Juniors career with 16 points and 8 rebounds including the clutch free-throws that effectively sealed the game. Ildefonso added 13 in what is also his final performance for the Eaglets. On the other end, Fortea paced the Bullpups’ efforts with a team-high 14 points. Minerva added 13 markers and 9 boards while Rhayyan Amsali was held to 6 points on 3/12 shooting.

The Eaglets are now winners of their first Juniors basketball championship since 2015, when they also defeated the Bullpups in a 3-game series.

The Scores

ADMU (63) – Sotto 19, Belangel 16, Ildefonso 13, Credo 4, Manuel 4, Chiu 4, David 3, Escalona 0, Jaymalin 0, Santos 0

NU (58) – Fortea 14, Minerva 13, Manalang 8, Oczon 7, Amsali 6, Javillonar 5, Pangilinan 3, Malonzo 2, Coyoca 0

Quarter Scores: 15-6, 28-23, 44-43, 63-58






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