By: Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
The University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons surely got the Utak and Puso, but the Ateneo Blue Eagles still owns Katipunan, for now.
The highly-anticipated showdown between the UP Fighting Maroons and the Blue Eagles came to a unanimous result as Ateneo handed UP a beating, 89-63, in the last game of the first round of eliminations.
The match proved something in the world of basketball, and that’s system beats talent.
Coach Tab Baldwin’s well-oiled system proved to be too much for the Fighting Maroons, as the free-flowing motion offense continued to free shooters and unload uncontested shots numerous times, killing UP’s momentum.
UP even led in the first quarter, 15-21, but let their emotions get the best of them when the calls didn’t go their way. The Fighting Maroons seemed to lose all focus on the game and resorted to arguing foul calls, punctuated by UP head coach Bo Perasol being ejected after surging into the playing court to argue a no-call.
Without their head coach, the Fighting Maroons found themselves in deep trouble as Ateneo continued to torch them on the hardwood.
Veteran point guard Matt Nieto of the Blue Eagles never backed down from the pressure of facing stalwarts Kobe Paras, Ricci Rivero, and Juan Gomez de Liaño as he capped off a masterful display with 18 big points, 5 rebounds, and 3 dimes.
Center Ange Kouame outdueled the UAAP MVP Bright Akhuetie as he posted another double-double performance with 19 points and 15 massive boards.
The Fighting Maroons were unable to trim the lead and were outworked in the post, getting out-muscled and outrebounded.
Showing poise and composure, the UAAP defending champions extended their lead up to 27 points in the last three minutes of the game, 89-62, off a Kouame dunk and a Tyler Tio trey.
Kobe Paras top-scored UP with 15 while Javi Gomez de Liaño chipped in 14 points. The Blue Eagles extended their winning streak to 7 and is still undefeated, while UP stayed at second place with a 5-2 standing.