By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
There will be no sweep for the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons in the first round of the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball tournament.
Featuring a nip-and-tuck affair and a game of counter runs, the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) Blue Eagles needed an overtime period to hand the Fighting Maroons their first loss of the season, 99-89, last October 22, 2023, held at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
The rematch of the past season’s grand finals lived up to the hype as both squads gave their all and figured in a fiery back-and-forth from start to finish.
However, in the extra five minutes of the game, rookie Mason Amos took matters into his own hands and erupted in the most crucial stretch of the overtime period to spearhead Ateneo’s rally with only 2:50 remaining in the game.
With the game deadlocked at 85-all, Amos kicked off his overtime heroics with a stop-and-pop jumper against the defense of LeBron Lopez.
Seeking to extend Ateneo’s lead after a defensive stop, Amos scored his second straight bucket after cashing in a step-back three-pointer at the top of the key to give the Blue Eagles a 90-85 advantage.
Amos then iced the game with a wide-open shot down the block after Ateneo broke UP’s full-court pressure defense with only 39 seconds left in OT.
The young stretch big man top-scored for the Blue Eagles with 19 markers, steering Ateneo’s chances of a Final Four appearance with a morale-boosting win heading into the second round of the preliminaries.
Veteran shooting guard Chris Koon backstopped Amos with a near double-double performance of 17 points and seven rebounds while foreign student Joseph Obasa chipped in 13 points, eight rebounds, and five blocks.
On the other hand, the Fighting Maroons got 22 points from main man CJ Cansino but weren’t enough to help UP end the first round with an unblemished record.