By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
The Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) Blue Eagles showed why you can’t underestimate the heart of a champion after pulling off a gutsy victory over the heavily favored De La Salle University (DLSU) Green Archers squad, 77-72, in the ongoing UAAP Season 86 men’s hoops tournament last October 4, 2023.
After letting their eight-point first-half lead evaporate when the Green Archers asserted their mastery in the crucial third quarter, the Blue Eagles bounced back in the final frame with the help of the timely shooting of their stretch big man Mason Amos.
Deadlocked at 64-all with only 2:44 remaining in the intense UAAP rivalry game, Amos knocked down back-to-back cold-blooded three-pointers that quickly ballooned Ateneo’s lead to six points.
Before draining the two-consecutive trifectas, Amos delivered some momentum for the Blue Eagles after burying a tough fade-away shot from the left baseline to give Ateneo a 64-61 cushion.
However, Kevin Quiambao answered every Amos basket as he answered with his own shot from downtown that tied the game at 64-all.
Quiambao wasn’t done doing damage as he inched DLSU closer with another triple to cut their deficit to just three points, 70-67.
A series of momentum-stealing offensive executions then rewarded Ateneo. Seeking to increase their advantage in the last 1:32 of the game, Kai Ballungay brought the house down after slamming the ball off a pick-and-roll play with Chris Koon.
The Green Archers missed a basket on the other end which allowed the Blue Eagles to pile up their lead courtesy of a shot from Jared Brown that pushed Ateneo’s lead to seven points, 74-67, with only 1:05 remaining.
Former Hua Siong College of Iloilo superstar Mark Nonoy tried to put the Green Archers on his back after scoring five quick points to cut the lead to four, 76-72, but time wasn’t on their side anymore.
Ateneo raced to a quick start after Ballungay’s six quick markers propelled them to an eight-point lead in the first quarter but a counterattack from the Green Archers slowly helped them comeback in the game.
After DLSU deployed their signature full-court pressure defense, the Green Archers just started to roll and were in a commanding position in the third frame when they clinched a nine-point lead, 45-54.
Trying to find that spark that can help Ateneo redeem their identity in the fourth quarter, head coach Tab Baldwin played chess and checkmated DLSU’s Topex Robinson after putting in fresh legs in the last five minutes of the contest.
Those fresh legs, Brown and Amos, proved to be the game-changers for the Blue Eagles and led the team to their first win of the UAAP season.
Koon top-scored the Blue Eagles with 19 big points and seven rebounds while Ballungay added 18 markers and 16 boards.
Meanwhile, Quiambao had another solid outing for the Green Archers after dropping 17 points and 14 rebounds but these weren’t enough to help DLSU keep their untainted record.