On brink of UAAP title, Blue Eagles ready to play toughest Fighting Maroons yet

Paul Desiderio (left) of UP and Thirdy Ravena of Ateneo are expected to play key roles in Game 2 of the UAAP Season 81 finals on Wednesday. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines—Ateneo de Manila University looks to take care of business on the basketball court again, when the Blue Eagles play University of the Philippines in Game 2 of the UAAP Season 81 finals at Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday.

Game 1 of the “Battle of Katipunan” lived up to the hype last Saturday, with the Fighting Maroons keeping in step with the defending champions for three quarters, before the Blue Eagles pulled away for an 88-79 win.

That put Ateneo on the brink of a second straight crown, and its 10th overall in the UAAP.

Game 2 tip-off is at 3:30 p.m. 

“Tough game, tough game. And I think that the outcome was in doubt probably up until the last couple of minutes,” Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin said.

“They (UP) did what they got here to do,” he added. “I’m sure that’s what coach Bo expects of them, I was very impressed with the way that they played.”

Ateneo, the best defensive team in the UAAP, gave up 79 points to the Fighting Maroons and didn’t pulled away until the final minutes of the fourth quarter.

Matt Nieto powered the Blue Eagles to victory, scoring a career-best 27 points while Thirdy Ravena was one assist shy of a triple-double with 21 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists.

The Ateneo coaches are concerned about the team’s defense, however, especially after giving up 13 three-pointers to the Fighting Maroons.

“It’s disappointing when our defense doesn’t do its job,” said Baldwin. “They shoot 46% from the three, they shoot 40% overall or better than that I’m not sure, we didn’t do our job.”

“And when you don’t do your job, I think it’s the coaches’ job to be disappointed,” he added.

The Blue Eagles also expect nothing less than the best from a UP team that has repeatedly risen to the occasion in this tournament. 

The Fighting Maroons won their last two elimination round games to barge into the final 4 for the first time since 1997, then stunned the second-seeded Adamson Falcons in the semis for their first finals appearance in 32 years.

“(They are) much more determined, much more cohesive,” Baldwin said of the Maroons. “They understand their personnel, they understand how to create shots much better and they play for one another. It’s quite obvious. So that always makes a team tougher.”

But Baldwin said he also expects a better effort from his team, particularly on the defensive end.

“I was proud of the fact that we stuck to the task, and we got to the finish line for the first half because this is only a half,” he said.

“We can’t expect anything less on Wednesday,” he also said. “We have to expect a lot more from our defense on Wednesday.”

For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.

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