MANILA – Ateneo De Manila reclaimed the UAAP men's basketball title on Monday night after beating defending champion University of the Philippines (UP), 75-68, in the deciding Game 3 of their championship series at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.
The Blue Eagles withstood a comeback bid from the Fighting Maroons in the endgame to annex their 12th championship since joining the league in 1977 in front of 21,814 crowd.
Ateneo banked on its solid perimeter game to open a 30-14 lead at the end of the first quarter, but UP slowly fought back and came to as close as three points, 67-70, with 20.1 seconds left.
Harold Alarcon, among those who stepped up for the Fighting Maroons in the absence of the injured Zav Lucero, even came close to getting a steal for a chance to force overtime.
Instead, Alarcon fouled BJ Andrade with 12.3 seconds left, and Andrade nailed two free throws that eventually iced the game for the Blue Eagles.
Ange Kouame led Ateneo, which beat UP to win it all for the second time in their last three Finals showdowns, with 19 points, 12 rebounds, one assist and four blocks.
Vince Gomez had a career-high 12 points even as Forthsky Padrigao also finished with 12 markers for the Blue Eagles.
James Spencer led UP, which failed to defend its championship against Ateneo last summer, with 14 points, two rebounds, and one assist. (PNA)