Ateneo De Manila University Blue Eagles need only one more win in order to once again seize the UAAP Men’s Basketball Championship after defeating University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons, 88-79, on Saturday, Dec. 01, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
The 27 points of Matt Nieto along with the 21 points and 12 rebounds of Thirdy Ravena carried the Blue Eagles nearer to their second straight and 10th overall title.
Nieto even scored the three-pointer that gave a 14-point lead, 87-73, to Ateneo at the 2:09 mark of the final period.
Jun Manzo scored 19 points for the Fighting Maroons, who are their first final Finals appearance after 32 years.
Juan Gomez De Liano also added 17 points and his older brother Javi Gomez De Liano finished with 17 points for the UP squad that was only trailing behind by two points, 63-61, at the start of the fourth quarter.
The Fighting Maroons’ Bright Ahkuetie contributed 10 points even after being stretched out of the court in the middle of the third quarter after a nudge from Ateneo’s Ange Kouame injured the left knee of the Nigerian player.
The Fighting Maroons center made his return to the court at the 7:04 mark of the fourth period.
Ateneo will attempt to end the Best-of-3 Finals series at Game-2 on Wednesday, Dec. 5, at the Araneta Coliseum in Cubao City, while UP will fight to remain alive in the playoffs.