Philippine basketball

Ian Espinosa steps up as Ateneo survives CSB for AsiaBasket crown

Martin Mendoza

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Ian Espinosa steps up as Ateneo survives CSB for AsiaBasket crown

TOP PERFORMER. Ian Espinosa comes through for the Ateneo Blue Eagles.

ASIABASKET

Back-up point guard Ian Espinosa pours in a game-high 15 points as the Ateneo Blue Eagles complete their undefeated run in the 2023 AsiaBasket Las Piñas Championship

MANILA, Philippines – The Ateneo Blue Eagles completed their undefeated run and captured the 2023 AsiaBasket Las Piñas Championship crown after defeating the College of St. Benilde Blazers in a tight one, 60-57, at the Villar Coliseum on Sunday, July 30.

Back-up point guard Ian Espinosa rose to the occasion for the Blue Eagles and delivered a game-high 15 points on an efficient 3-of-5 clip from beyond the arc, including a crucial three-pointer with only 2:21 left to play.

Tournament MVP Kai Ballungay posted a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds, while foreign student-athlete Joseph Obasa made his presence felt on the defensive end with 8 points, 16 rebounds, and 4 blocks.

“We really appreciate this opportunity at this time of the year. It means a lot to us to get this quality of games,” said Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin of the AsiaBasket, which is founded by former Blue Eagle and PBA player Jai Reyes. 

“We’re obviously very pleased that we came out victorious,” added Baldwin as Ateneo finished the tournament at 7-0.

With the Blue Eagles on top by its largest at 11 points late in the third quarter, 48-37, the Blazers mounted a comeback and even momentarily held the lead, 51-50, off a layup by reigning NCAA MVP Will Gozum at the 8:24 mark of the final period.

The cold-blooded triple by Espinosa gave the Blue Eagles a much-needed two-possession advantage, 59-53, before back-to-back baskets by Miggy Corteza and Gozum pulled the Blazers back within just 3 points, 57-60, with only 46 seconds to go.

CSB had a golden opportunity to tie the game and potentially send it into overtime after Obasa missed two pressure-packed free throws, but Prince Carlos’ pull-up three-pointer with eight seconds remaining failed to hit the mark. 

Gozum topscored for the Blazers in the losing effort with 12 points on 50% field goal clip, while Robi Nayve added 11 markers.

The Scores

Ateneo 60 – Espinosa 15, Ballungay 12, Obasa 8, Chiu 7, Bongo 7, Amos 5, Quitevis 4, Tuano 2, Koon 0, Gomez 0, Credo 0, Lazaro 0, Nieto 0, Celis 0.

CSB 57 – Gozum 12, Nayve 11, Carlos 8, Sangco 6, Corteza 6, Oczon 5, Arciaga 4, Mara 3, Turco 2, Marasigan 0, Cajucom 0, Davis 0, Jarque 0. 

Quarters: 21-15, 33-29, 50-45, 60-57.

– Rappler.com 

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