MANILA – Ateneo denied the University of the Philippines (UP) a grand UAAP men's basketball championship party on Wednesday night after taking a 69-66 win in Game 2 of their best-of-three finals affair at the Mall of Asia in Pasay.
The outcome means the Blue Eagles, the defending champions, and the Fighting Maroons, seeking their first title since 1986, will meet one last time for all the marbles on Friday night at the same venue.
Ateneo survived despite UP pulling off yet another second-half showcase to be just three minutes away from ending a long title drought.
Down by as much as 15 points in the third quarter, the Fighting Maroons used a huge run spanning through the fourth quarter to go up, 57-56, with 4:48 remaining.
After an exchange of baskets, the Blue Eagles went on a game-turning 9-2 run to take a 69-63 lead with less than a minute remaining.
UP kept itself in the game after Zav Lucero scored on a layup and got a stop on the other end in the next play.
But Ricci Rivero took some time before fishing a foul on Ange Kouame with only two seconds left.
Rivero, who made his first free throw, intentionally missed the second charity in hopes of an offensive rebound, but Dave Ildefonso easily grabbed the defensive rebound to seal Ateneo's win.
Kouame, who was formally named the season's Most Valuable Player earlier in the day, came close to a rare point-rebound-block triple-double with 14 points, 14 rebounds, and eight blocks to lead the Blue Eagles.
Tyler Tio also had 14 markers with one rebound.
Carl Tamayo, who was named Rookie of the Year, finished with 18 points, 12 rebounds, one assist, one block, and two steals for the Fighting Maroons. (PNA)