UAAP Basketball

UP holds off Ateneo in clutch, moves one win away from defending UAAP title

JR Isaga
UP holds off Ateneo in clutch, moves one win away from defending UAAP title

HUSTLE GUY. Zavier Lucero celebrates after a play in Game 1 of the UAAP Season 85 men's basketball finals

UAAP Season 85 Media Team

Zavier Lucero and Harold Alarcon lead the defending UAAP champion UP Fighting Maroons in a clutch finals Game 1 escape of the Ateneo Blue Eagles

MANILA, Philippines – The UP Fighting Maroons now stand one win away from defending their UAAP men’s basketball championship with a 72-66 Game 1 escape over the Ateneo Blue Eagles at the Mall of Asia Arena on Sunday, December 11.

Zavier Lucero led the thrilling win with 14 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks in 33 minutes, while JD Cagulangan scored 12 with 8 boards, 5 dimes, and 2 steals.

Harold Alarcon, meanwhile, dropped timely buckets in the fourth quarter for 11 points, while presumptive season MVP Malick Diouf came one point shy of a double-double with 9 points and 10 boards in just 18 foul-plagued minutes.

Coming off a 58-56 lead with 7:20 left in the fourth quarter, UP unleashed its two-way chops on Ateneo with a pivotal 10-2 run ending at the 4:37 mark, highlighted by a huge Lucero block on Chris Koon and two booming triples by Alarcon for the 68-58 separation.

Ateneo only mustered a 7-2 response, capped with a Kouame hook shot at the 2:11 mark, before the offense grinded to a halt on both ends down the stretch.

Kouame, who drilled two threes prior to the endgame, got another open look from the top of the key with 10.9 seconds left, but his last trey clanked off as Cagulangan sealed the deal with two more free throws on the other end.

“Defensively, we started well. The ball movement was also really there. I like the way the team looked for the open man,” said UP head coach Goldwin Monteverde.

“We sustained our play. [Ateneo] had their run earlier, but at least we were able to sustain our play in the fourth.”

Forthsky Padrigao paced the loss with 16 points in just 22 minutes, while reigning MVP Ange Kouame tallied a 15-point, 10-board double-double.

UP can close the series out in Game 2 on Wednesday, December 14, 6 pm, at the Araneta Coliseum. Meanwhile, Ateneo goes back to the drawing board to possibly force a do-or-die Game 3 on Monday, December 19.

The Scores

UP 72 – Lucero 14, Cagulangan 12, Alarcon 11, Diouf 9, Gonzales 8, Tamayo 7, Galinato 6, Spencer 5, Fortea 0, Abadiano 0.

Ateneo 66 – Padrigao 16, Kouame 15, Ildefonso 10, Andrade 10, Koon 9, Lazaro 3, Chiu 2, Gomez 1, Ballungay 0, Daves 0, Quitevis 0, Lao 0.

Quarters: 28-19, 42-35, 54-50, 72-66.

– Rappler.com

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