The Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles on Saturday, December 1, drew first blood against the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball finals.
After a convincing performance from Ateneans Matt Nieto and Thirdy Ravena, the Blue Eagles were able to snatch the game 1 of the best-of-three finals series with a 88-79 win against the Fighting Maroons at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The Blue Eagles pulled away early in the game with a 17-7 opener before the Fighting Maroons started their own comeback at the second quarter. Before the first half closed, UP point guard Jun Manzo pulled off a three-point buzzer-beater to slice down Ateneo’s lead to one, 39-38.
At the third, UP’s star player and expected most valuable player of the UAAP season, Bright Akhuetie, was pulled out of the game after hurting his knee following a bump with Ateneo’s Ange Khoume.
Despite Akhuetie’s absence, the Fighting Maroons still managed to keep the score close.
Akhuetie was brought back to the game during the fourth quarter with seven minutes remaining in the clock but despite the Maroons’ effort to keep the game close, the Blue Eagles eventually pulled away in the final minutes of the game after a 14-2 run to extend the lead to 14, 87-73.
The Blue Eagles did not look back and won the match 88-79.
Nieto had a career-high 27 points while Ravena had 21 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks.
Ateneo is a win away from winning their second straight UAAP men’s basketball title, and 10th overall.
Game 2 of the finals series will happen on Wednesday, December 5.