By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
The Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) Blue Eagles banked on an efficient second-half performance to dispatch the struggling University of Santo Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers, 97-77, in the ongoing UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball tournament last October 18, 2023.
Veteran swingman Chris Koon had another solid outing for the Blue Eagles after leading all Ateneo scorers with 21 big points.
It was a wire-to-wire victory for Ateneo after taking control of the ball game from the get-go while not allowing the hungry Growling Tigers to retake the advantage until the final buzzer sounded.
However, UST saw a glimmer of hope in the last five minutes of the third quarter after mounting a momentum-changing 8-0 scoring run to trim their deficit to just five points, 58-53.
Just when UST thought they already figured out Ateneo’s defensive scheme, the defending champions quickly struck back with their own scoring avalanche kicked off by a Mason Amos three-pointer.
After the trey, the Blue Eagles suddenly waxed hot from the field and ballooned their cushion again to double digits heading into the final frame.
It was all Ateneo in the final 10 minutes of regulation as their signature crisp passing and pick-and-roll plays exposed UST that successfully protected their comfortable lead.
The Blue Eagles’ impressive 53% shooting from the field hurt the Growling Tigers as they just can’t generate enough defensive stops to climb their way back.
Backstopping Koon’s efficient shooting was Kai Ballungay who contributed 17 points and seven rebounds.
Meanwhile, Ateneo’s foreign student, Joseph Obasa, displayed one of his best performances in the UAAP and chipped in the same stat line as Ballungay.
With the much-needed victory, the Blue Eagles just improved their record to 3-3 and must secure more wins to increase their chances of another Final Four finish.