Struggling in the first game of the Battle of Katipunan, the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons were defeated by the Ateneo De Manila University (ADMU) Blue Eagles, 79-88, on Saturday, December 1, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
The first quarter began with a 6-5 outing favoring the Diliman cagers, courtesy of Starters Jun Manzo and Bright Akhuetie and ADMU’s Matt Nieto and Thirdy Ravena.
UP failed to maintain their momentum as fouls slowed down Janjan Jaboneta and Akhuetie in the opening three minutes of the game.
The Blue Eagles’ one-on-one defense made it difficult for UP to keep their composure. As a result, less field goals came from the Maroons which allowed ADMU to have a 19-6 rally of their own.
Inching towards the last few minutes of the frame, Akhuetie was benched after committing a personal foul.
Powering through this, Juan Gomez De Liano put up a two-pointer to end the quarter with a 18-26 score favoring ADMU.
Opening the second quarter, Diego Dario and Jerson Prado collectively added five markers that Matt Nieto would then follow with a two.
Heading into a 32-all deadlock with over four minutes left in the quarter, UP took the one-point lead via a Juan Gomez De Liano triple.
Anton Asistio and Matt Nieto started an uncontested seven point run that was stopped by a Manzo buzzer-beater three. The second quarter ended, 38-39, for the Blue Eagles.
Despite a promising start, the Fighting Maroons were not able to evade the Blue Eagles’ one-on-one defense in the third quarter.
Emotions also ran high and both teams made unnecessary fouls – four for UP, six for ADMU.
About three minutes into the canto, MVP Bright Akhuetie was stretchered out due to a knee strain, causing a slack in UP’s defense and a silence in the Maroon crowd.
Manzo pushed on the game with seven points while fellow Cebuano native Paul Desiderio added two, closing in on the Blue Eagles at a 61-63 score at the end of the third quarter.
Tyler Tio began the fourth frame with a two-point play.
Foul trouble from the Maroons backed them into a corner, allowing nine points for ADMU that came from the charity lane alone compared to UP’s seven.
With seven minutes and four seconds left on the clock, Bright Akhuetie came off the bench and made two successful free throws. A 16-9 run benefiting ADMU followed suit.
Capping off the last canto with a Juan Gomez De Liano free throw, the game ended with a 79-88 standing against UP.
Hoping to bag a win in their next game, Jun Manzo wants to maximize State U’s first finals appearance in 32 years.
“Yung team namin parang gutom, kaya di namin ‘to mapakakawalan yung chance na binigay sa’min ni Lord. Kaya next game, babawi talaga kami.“, said Manzo.
Jun Manzo led the UP Fighting Maroons with 19 points, followed by Juan and Javi Gomez De Liano with 17 and 11 points respectively.
Matt Nieto scored the most points for the Blue Eagles with 27 markers.
Aiming for a do-or-die match, the UP Fighting Maroons will face the Ateneo once again this Wednesday for game two of the finals, on December 5, Wednesday, at the Araneta Coliseum. TNP
Photo by Summer Padilla