By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
The Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) Blue Eagles finally halted their three-game slump after taming the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers, 67-59, in the ongoing UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball tournament last November 8, 2023.
It was a game of counter-runs as Ateneo quickly got ahead when they swelled their lead to as much as 18 points, 34-16, after a second-quarter scoring burst.
Just when the Blue Eagles thought it would be another walk in the park just like their first-round encounter, the Growling Tigers fought with their all this time, coming back in the second half to trim their deficit to just four points, 47-43.
UST blitzed their way to a 14-4 third-quarter scoring run that shocked the Blue Eagles with still 1:57 remaining heading into the final frame.
However, the Blue Eagles kept their composure and restored order in the fourth when the duo of Kai Ballungay and Chris Koon sparked their offense.
Despite UST staying afloat with their timely three-point conversions, the Blue Eagles just showed they had enough firepower to produce points until the final buzzer sounded.
Ballungay was solid for the Tab Baldwin-led squad after tallying a dominant double-double performance of 15 points and 14 rebounds.
From the get-go, it was Ballungay who injected energy to the Blue Eagles as his offensive rebounding and aggressive drives to the basket set the tone for the blue and white.
Meanwhile, Koon bounced back from his dismal shooting performance in the last two games and dropped 12 markers.
Nic Cabañero once again led the Growling Tigers in points with 16 markers alongside 10 rebounds and seven assists but his terrific all-around game was still not enough to bring them a win.