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    Ateneo claws UP, takes Game 1 of UAAP 81 Finals

    MANILA, Philippines – The Ateneo De Manila University (ADMU) Blue Eagles survived the feisty University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons to secure Game 1 of the best-of-three UAAP Season 81 men's basketball finals showdown, 88-79 on Saturday, December 1, 2018 at the Mall of Asia Arena.

    ADMU Blue Eagles, led by high-flying Thirdy Ravena secured game 1 against the UP
    One game at a time. ADMU Blue Eagles, led by high-flying Thirdy Ravena secured game 1 against the UP Fighting Maroons and just a win away from a back-to-back title. Credit: Interaksyon

    The Blue Eagles versus UP Fighting Maroons could probably the best Finals series in this decade.

    It’s something unusual but historical for UAAP as the Fighting Maroons made their way to the championship after 32 years and both schools are battling over basketball supremacy in their area and the reason why this year’s finals is dubbed as: “The Battle of Katipunan.”

    UP, led by Bright Akhuetie made a strong head start but Ateneo answered back and sent a message to its rival by doubling the Maroons’ early advantage midway of the opener.

    Ateneo’s lead had gone up to a dozen point courtesy of Thirdy Ravena but Javi Gomez De Liano retaliated with few three pointers to prevent the Blue Eagles from leaving them far behind.

    At the end of the 1st quarter, ADMU managed to hold onto their advantage, 26-18.

    UP initiated a 10-2 scoring run to cut ADMU’s lead to just 3 as they started the 2nd period. Juan Gomez De Liano and Jun Manzo finally shrugged off their finals jitters and shocked the Blue Eagles as they found themselves tied with Ateneo at 32.

    Ateneo began to miss their shots and UP took advantage of that misfortune. The Fighting Maroons turned the tides in their favor as Gomez De Liano drained a seamless trey to grab the lead.

    Jun Manzo beat the halftime buzzer from way downtown but Ateneo got away with just a point, 39-38 lead as the players headed to dugout for a short break.

    The halftime break had been beneficial to the Blue Eagles as Coach Tab Baldwin adjusted his team’s plays and his players executed them properly in the 3rd quarter that gave them their lead back.

    At the 6:31 mark, Bright Akhuetie suffered a gruesome injury as Ange Kouame accidentally bumped him from behind that caused the UP stalwart’s left knee to bend backwards. Akhuetie left the floor on a stretcher so that the medics can further examine his knee.

    Despite Akhuetie’s absence, Jun Manzo stepped up big time to save his team from drowning as Ateneo could create an opportunity to attack their interior defense.

    UP survived the 3rd quarter without its 6’8” Nigerian center on court as ADMU just possessed a slim 63-61 advantage.

    Bright Akhuetie went back on the bench after getting his left knee wrapped in ice. He seemed ok as he re-entered the game at the start of the final quarter.

    The fans are getting too much value for their money as the game remained too close to call. Ateneo though had the lead in most part of the fourth.

    At the 2-minute warning, UP’s hope in upsetting the defending champs dimmed as Ateneo’s margin got up to a dozen anew.

    Battered and bruised Bright Akhuetie tried his very best to chase down the Blue Eagles despite of a knee injury but the men in blue were too strong for his team and game 1 finally slipped from their hands as Ateneo locked game 1, 88-79.

    The Blue Eagles can finish off the Fighting Maroons on Wednesday, December 5, 2018 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

    The scores:

    ATENEO 88 – Nieto Ma. 27, Ravena 21, Kouame 7, Verano 6, Tio 6, Mamuyac 5, Asistio 4, Nieto Mi. 4, Wong 3, Mendoza 3, Go 2, Navarro 0.

    UP 79– Manzo 19, Gomez de Liaño Ju. 17, Gomez de Liaño Ja. 11, Akhuetie 10, Dario 9, Desiderio 5, Tungcab 3, Vito 3, Prado 2, Murrell 0, Jaboneta 0, Gozum 0.

    Quarters: 26-18, 39-38, 63-61, 88-79

    — Joey Boy Capos, The Summit Express

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