MANILA, Philippines – The Ateneo Blue Eagles showed endgame poise anew to complete a sweep of the World University Basketball Series.
Dave Ildefonso played an all-around game as the Blue Eagles downed Japan’s Tokai University Seagulls, 68-59, in a battle of unbeaten squads on Thursday, August 11, at the Yoyogi National Gymnasium in Shibuya, Tokyo.
Newcomer Paul Garcia also continued to impress as the Blue Eagles completed their title romp in the inaugural four-team tournament featuring top varsity teams from Taiwan, Indonesia, and Japan.
Ildefonso posted 14 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals to lead the Blue Eagles, who overcame the Seagulls’ comeback efforts from a 15-point deficit in the last three minutes.
Garcia, a 5-foot-11 Fil-Am guard, had 8 points to match the output of former Blue Eaglets BJ Andrade, Forthsky Padrigao, and Josh Lazaro.
Tokai’s Hiroki Matsuzaki, meanwhile, dropped a game-high 16 points as teammate Koyo Nishida chipped in 13. But the Japanese duo’s scoring exploits were not enough to lift their team to a hometown win.
The Blue Eagles – who settled for a runner-up finish last UAAP season after a three-peat romp – demolished Indonesia’s Universitas Pelita Harapan Eagles in their first game, then squeaked past Chinese Taipei’s National Chengchi University Griffins to set up a winner-take-all championship clash with Japan’s Tokai University.
Leading by just a bucket, 43-41, at the start of the fourth period, the Blue Eagles started to separate themselves from the home team as they built the match’s first double-digit lead, 55-45, after a three-point basket by Ildefonso.
Andrade and Nigerian recruit Joseph Obasa added 5 more points as the Katipunan-based squad posted its largest lead of the game at 60-45 with over three minutes remaining.
But just when they seem headed to a comfortable win, a dry spell suddenly hit the Blue Eagles as they struggled to unlock the full-court pressure of the desperate Seagulls.
Aside from being unable to convert a field goal, the Blue Eagles committed several turnovers as the Seagulls cut the gap to single digits.
Fortunately for the Ateneans, time wasn’t on the Japanese’s side as Kai Ballungay and Sean Quitevis combined for three free throws in the last 27 seconds to seal the championship for the Blue Eagles.
Japan finished second with a 2-1 win-loss record, followed by Taiwan (1-2) and Indonesia (0-3).
Ateneo 68 – Ildefonso 14, Garcia 8, Andrade 8, Padrigao 8, Lazaro 8, Chiu 6, Obasa 6, Ballungay 5, Quitevis 3, Koon 2, Gomez 0, Fetalvero 0.
Tokai 59 – Matsuzaki 16, K. Nishida 13, Kanechika 9, Kodama 9, Maeno 4, Motoda 3, Kurokawa 2, Shimatani 2, Liang 1, Lawrence Jr 0, Y. Nishida 0.
Quarters: 14-16, 28-26, 43-41, 68-59.