MANILA, Philippines – Ateneo forward Kai Ballungay fully erased the memory of his scoreless UAAP finals Game 1 outing with a 15-point eruption in just 19 minutes of Game 2 as the Blue Eagles forced a series decider over the UP Fighting Maroons with a 65-55 win.
Inside a sold-out, standing-room only Araneta Coliseum filled to the brim with 20,616 fans, Ballungay and his front court partner Ange Kouame made it rain both inside and outside as they sparked Ateneo’s comeback effort with their backs against the wall for the second straight finals.
After the game, Ballungay revealed that apart from setting a personal goal to bounce back, he and his teammates also found inspiration from welcome outside forces in the form of former Ateneo standouts like Will Navarro, Gian Mamuyac, and the Nieto twins Matt and Mike.
“It’s special not only for the team, but for myself especially, just to hear all of their stories – the Nieto brothers, Will Navarro – all those guys. They were able to instill to me a lot of the things that they witnessed, that they experienced in their careers,” he said.
“I really took that to heart and wanted to show that type of brotherhood, something we can look up to, with what they’ve built from years past. Game 1 didn’t go the way I wanted it, the way this team wanted it, but coming in tonight, I just wanted to get back in whatever way I could.”
After attempting just three shots in Game 1, Ballungay immediately got to work in Game 2 and drilled his first three attempts for 7 first-half points in just 8 minutes.
The former Stanislaus State recruit from California continued firing away in the second half on the way to a final 7-of-10 clip as Ateneo led by as many as 15 points and never looked back.
With his newfound band of brothers fully supporting him from the sidelines moving forward, look for Ballungay to pick up right where he left off and no longer have a Game 1 repeat in the do-or-die match on Monday, December 19, still at the Araneta Coliseum. – Rappler.com