by: Jesslie Yu || Photo Credit: One Sports
Outlasting the defending champions, the Ateneo Blue Eagles are back at the top, redeeming themselves against the UP Fighting Maroons, 75-68, in an intense do-or-die Battle of Katipunan last December 19, 2022, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.
Ange Kouame was hailed as the Finals MVP for offensively and defensively hounding the Fighting Maroons with 19 points, 12-rebound double-double game, and four blocks. Securing the victory for Blue Eagles alongside Kouame, Gabriel Gomez and Forthsky Padrigao both knocked up the scoreboard with 12 points.
“This means a lot to me because nobody believed in us, even we didn’t believe in us in the start. But Coach Tab is the man and we just followed his lead,” stated the Finals MVP Kouame.
Ateneo dominated the first half as they jumped out to gain an early 9-0 run in the first quarter, wrapping up with a suffocating lead, 30-14. They continued to punish the Fighting Maroons, who were trying to fight back against the storm of Ateneo, but the Blue Eagles blew the lead and ended the first half with a strong 15-point advantage, 47- 32.
Turning the wheels of fate, the hungry Fighting Maroons did not yield over the 20-point deficit of Ateneo and crawled back into the game with a destructive 18-4 run, closing the gap to only a 6-point deficit, 56-50. The third quarter ended with a single-digit lead by Ateneo, 60-52.
Feeding off their momentum, the Diliman-based squad went on rampaging the court in the fourth and final quarter as they managed to make a 5-point lead with James Spencer’s emphatic three-pointer in the last two minutes.
With only 24 seconds on the clock, UP’s Alarcon intentionally missed the free throw to score a cold-blooded three in the corner, making it a three-point game, 70-67. But Ateneo concluded the Cinderella story of UP through crushing free throws to finally seal the deal and redeem their 12th championship in Men’s Basketball, 75-68.
“I’m so far from the forefront of this championship. It’s about these players. I’m just so grateful for their effort. I’m the lucky guy,” said Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin.
Ateneo (75): Kouame – 19, Padrigao – 12, Gomez – 12, Andrade – 10, Ballungay – 4, Chiu – 4, Daves – 4, Koon – 4, Quitevis – 4, Ildefonso – 2.
UP (68): Spencer – 14, Alarcon – 12, Galinato – 12, Tamayo – 11, Cagulangan – 9, Diouf – 7, Gonzales – 2, Lucero – 1.
Quarters: 30-14, 47-32, 60-52, 75-68.