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The Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles showed the heart of a champion as they weathered a tremendous comeback by the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons to eventually prevail, 69-66, in Game Two of the UAAP Season 84 men’s basketball finals on Wednesday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
The Ateneo victory sets the stage for a winner-take-all Game Three on Friday with the tip-off at 6 p.m.
Blue Eagles sentinel Ange Kouame, who was hailed as the league’s Most Valuable Player earlier in the day, anchored Ateneo’s attack on both ends of the floor. The 6-foot-11 center had 11 points and 14 rebounds to go with eight blocked shots.
Tyler Tio also bounced back from a horrendous Game One and punched in 14 points, while Dave Ildefonso was productive with 10 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals.
UP was down by as much as 15 points in the third canto but rallied in the fourth. They even took a one-point lead after back-to-back corner triples from Carl Tamayo.
However, the Blue Eagles kept their composure down the stretch with Kouame hitting big shots and Gian Mamuyac and SJ Belangel canning easy layups off ghastly UP turnovers for a 69-63 lead with 45 seconds to go.
UP still had a shot at pulling closer but Ricci Rivero wasted precious seconds down the stretch that all but shut the door on the Fighting Maroons.
Tamayo led UP with 18 points and 12 rebounds while Rivero finished with 16. (JNP)