By Eriko dela Cruz
It was a different Ateneo Blue Eagles that played in Game Two versus the UP Fighting Maroons, a scarier one than the one against Adamson in the Final Four. A team with their backs against the wall, driven by purpose.
The Final Four win by the Blue Eagles was an offensive masterpiece. It seemed like everything they threw at the rim went in, and that 19-0 run in the third quarter was a testament to that, torching the Soaring Falcons en route to a sixth finals appearance. In Game One, however, things normalized, and saw themselves down a game heading into the second game.
What is the scary thing about the Blue Eagles in their 65-55 win against UP? For one, they held the UP Fighting Maroons to their lowest-scoring output since Goldwin Monteverde took over as head coach. Another scary thing is that they showed something sustainable on both ends of the court.
It seemed like the Blue Eagles remembered they had one of the most dominant forces in UAAP history and fed him more. Ange Kouame was the cornerstone of the offense, getting his points in the paint with a little more ease as the plays were for him. A domino effect happened because of this. Kai Ballungay finally had his first great encounter against UP, scoring 15 points benefitting from Ange’s gravity. The bench also showed up today, notably Geo Chiu (6) and Matthew Daves (6). They were definitely very instrumental, going above and beyond their roles to contribute to Ateneo’s output.
The Blue Eagles were more deliberate on offense. They were aggressive in the right amounts, and the attack was calculated. They involved Ange more in creation and they used his gravity to give Kai Ballungay more opportunities to score.
That aggression from Ateneo’s bigs led to the Blue Eagles getting some notable Fighting Maroons into foul trouble. Ateneo did a great job getting Henry Galinato’s and MVP Malick Diouf’s first two fouls in the first quarter. Soon as they sat down almost the entire first half, they were out of their grooves.
Ateneo’s third-quarter runs are usually a balance of great defense matched with good offense. As much as Ateneo had great offensive execution in Game Two, it was their defense that carried them to victory. The Blue Eagles were very disciplined on defense, reading the passing lanes well. They did not swipe unnecessarily and defended with their feet. The coaching staff has done a tremendous job scouting The Fighting Maroons’ offense and stopped it to a grind. Even if Ateneo was outscored 8-11 in the fourth quarter, most of UP’s points came from Carl Tamayo and three came from Terrence Fortea. The Fighting Maroons were also forced to take haymaker shots because they were not getting good looks in the paint.
Sean Quitevis, man, take a bow. As BJ Andrade was in foul trouble for most of the game, Quitevis stepped up and defended UP’s guards very well. He is long enough to defend James Spencer and quick enough to cover JD Cagulangan and Terrence Fortea. He earned his minutes with relentless defense.
For now, all celebrations should end. Knowing this team, they are in the video room trying to see what they can do better. On the court, they are trying to apply what they learned. Coach Tab and the Blue Eagles have one last game to play this season. For Ange Kouame, Dave Ildefonso, and BJ Andrade, it’s their last game in the UAAP and a chance to cement their legacy.
Here’s a stat for all the stats nerds out there:
The last game 3 on a Monday that involved Ateneo, the team that lost game 1 eventually won the title.
See you Monday.