UPDATED: UP fails to cool off Ateneo’s late explosion after coming up short, 79-88, in the Game 1 of Finals of the UAAP Season 81 Mens’ Basketball Tournament.
Guard Jun Manzo came up big scoring 19 points, 17 in the 2nd and 3rd quarter to keep UP in the game after MVP Bright Akhuetie who suffered a knee sprain in the middle of the 3rd quarter only put up 10 points and 5 rebounds and Captain Paul Desiderio only scored 5 points but with 6 rebounds and 8 assists. Juan Gomez De Liano notched 17 points and 8 rebounds but were not enough against Ateneo’s top gunners.
UP started out hot with a Desiderio-Manzo alley-oop connection and two easy lay-ups from Akhuetie for the team’s first six points. But Ateneo slowed down the pace to favor their offense lead by forward Thirdy Ravena’s all-around game with 11 points in the first quarter to get an early lead, 26-18 staving off UP’s three consecutive treys from Diego Dario and Javi Gomez de Liano.
Manzo put up a spirited performance in the second quarter after scoring 10 of his 19 points from tough baskets to will UP to only a 1-point disadvantage, 38-39. Akhuetie suffered an unfortunate knee sprain that forced him to leave the game momentarily in the middle of the third quarter, but Manzo made sure to keep UP in pace with the defending champions to close the gap at the end, 61-63.
Akhuetie returned for UP with 7:04 left in the game but Ravena and Matt Nieto, who combined for 48 points and 10 assists in the whole game would make sure to keep Ateneo away by scoring dagger after dagger and making crucial defensive stops to ice the game, 88-79.
“Before the series, everyone was saying that UP have no match against them, no experience in the finals but with what they’ve shown, with little tweaking on defense, we could give Ateneo their money’s worth. We are still positive with our chances. We just need some preparation which we did not have the last few days and I’m sure we will be better next game,” said Coach Bo Perasol after the game.
Maroons would get another chance to force a do-or-die against the Eagles on Wednesday, December 5, 3:30 pm at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Ateneo (88) – Nieto Ma. 27, Ravena 21, Kouame 7, Verano 6, Tio 6, Mamuyac 5, Asistio 4, Nieto Mi. 4, Wong 3, Mendoza 3, Go 2, Navarro 0.
UP (79) – Manzo 19, Gomez de Liaño Ju. 17, Gomez de Liaño 11, Akhuetie 10, Dario 9, Desiderio 5, Tungcab 3, Vito 3, Prado 2, Murrell 0, Jaboneta 0, Gozum 0.
Quarterscores: 26-18, 39-38, 63-61, 88-79.