THE Ateneo Blue Eagles defeated the UP Fighting Maroons 99-89 in overtime to end the opening round of the 86th Season of the UAAP Men’s Basketball Tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena on Sunday.
There is no better way to cap off the first round of UAAP action than with a ‘Battle of Katipunan’ overtime drama. The first ‘Battle of Katipunan’ of the 86th Season of the UAAP drew 12,122 spectators.
The entire regulation was a back-and-forth between the two sides. The Katipunan-based squads are locked in a tight contest, having concluded the first half scoring 25-24, with UP leading by one point.
Chris Koon led the Blue Eagles in scoring at the half, with eight points. To close the half, the Ateneans had a well-balanced offensive, with Gab Gomez being the only player without a point.
Despite CJ Cansino’s poor start for the squad, the UP Fighting Maroons managed to seize a one-point lead owing to Gerry Abadiano’s 12 points and Mark Belmonte’s 9 points on 4/4 shooting.
Cansino finally came to life in the third quarter, going on an 8-point scoring outburst by attacking the basket to bring the Fighting Maroons within striking distance. The Ateneans, on the other hand, were able to respond through Koon’s and Credo’s efficient quarter.
The Blue Eagles gained momentum early in the fourth quarter. After a Chris Koon basket at the 7:13 mark, they built a 10-point advantage, 78-68.
The game’s largest lead, however, was erased by team captain CJ Cansino, who scored many times along with baskets from Francis Lopez and Reyland Torres to send the game to overtime, 80-80.
The game was tied again, 85-85, after a Malick Diouf down low basket. Mason Amos took over at this point, scoring a perimeter jumpshot and a stepback three to put Ateneo up, 90-85, with 2:14 remaining.
Cansino was able to catch a foul and a bucket but missed the extra free throw. Another squandered opportunity came when Reyland Torres missed two free throws that could have cut the advantage to a single possession. The game ended 98-88, with Ateneo escaping the Fighting Maroons on an overtime thriller.
The Future is Bright
Photo Courtesy: Ryan Baldemor
Mason Amos, a coveted rookie and former Gilas player, led the Blue Eagles with 19 points, 10 rebounds, and two assists, including seven huge baskets in overtime.
“I was just trying to get a good look. The shot clock was running down, so the only thing on my mind was trying to get a shot off because it would have been a turnover,” Amos said of his clutch buckets.
Blue Eagles head coach Tab Baldwin admits that his squad struggled to compete with UP, but he sees this game as a deciding aspect in how the club will do in the second round.
“It was a real character game for us because UP is a great team who played great. They did UP stuff the entire game. Their guards are the best set of UAAP guards l’ve seen in my entire time in the UAAP,” Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin stated.
“To win big games, you have to do things that are sort of out of system where guys have to step up and make plays. Today, we made a couple more than they did and that’s the story of the game,” he added.
Despite the great win over the undefeated Fighting Maroons, head coach Tab Baldwin says the team still requires more consistency.
“This game really means nothing if we don’t back it up,” he said. “If we can’t get more of that [wins], this will just be a moment instead of ‘turning the corner’ in this season. We need to turn the corner,” he said of their current situation.
Aside from Amos, Chris Koon had another outstanding game, scoring 17 points and grabbing seven rebounds. The Blue Eagles also won thanks to 13 extra points from Joseph Obasa.
Photo Courtesy: Ryan Baldemor
The Fighting Maroons, on the other hand, were led by CJ Cansino’s MVP stats, finishing the game with 22 points, six rebounds, and two blocks.
CJ Cansino confesses that, despite their amazing 6-0 record, most of their victories are disappointing because of the errors and mistakes they make every game.
The team captain hopes the Fighting Maroons will learn from their painful loss that broke their unbeaten streak as they enter the second round on Wednesday, possibly facing Ateneo Blue Eagles once more.