UP eliminates Ateneo, makes another UAAP Finals appearance

By: Angel B. Dukha III - @inquirerdotnet - Inquirer.net | November 26,2023 - 07:27 AM

UP eliminates Ateneo, makes another UAAP Finals appearance. In photo is Francis Lopez, left, who came up big for UP down the stretch in their UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball Final Four game against Ateneo.–MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

Francis Lopez, left, came up big for UP down the stretch in their UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball Final Four game against Ateneo.–MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines — The University of the Philippines has eliminated defending champions Ateneo, 57-46, as it barges into the finals for the third time in a row in the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball tournament on Saturday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Rookie Francis Lopez of the Fighting Maroons, who is an Ateneo high school product, made sure that UP gets the win with a clutch lefty layup to push their lead to 55-46 with 32.6 seconds left before sealing the win with two free throws to eliminate the Blue Eagles.

This is the first time in eight years that the Ateneo Blue Eagles missed the championship round of the UAAP.

Lopez rose to the occasion in front of 14,505 fans, with 12 points and 10 rebounds and helping the Fighting Maroons exact sweet revenge on their Finals tormentor last year.

“I want to take my coaches, first of all, for getting all this work that they have done for us, especially against Ateneo, coach Tab has been here for a long time. Our coaches were there and they always got our back,” said Lopez. “We just fought really hard.”

Reigning Most Valuable Player Malick Diouf also powered UP with 12 points, 16 rebounds, three blocks, and three steals. The Maroons will face the winner of the other semifinal match between twice-to-beat La Salle and National University.

UP eliminates Ateneo. In photo is UP's Malick Diouf.–MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net


In a low-scoring game with Ateneo leading 25-22 at the half, the Fighting Maroons caught fire down the stretch. Gerry Abadiano scored six of his nine points in the fourth quarter for a 53-44 lead with 3:51 remaining before Lopez’s key baskets clinched UP’s fourth Finals berth in the last five seasons.

Janjan Felicilda also stepped up with 10 points, five rebounds, and three assists, while Aldous Torculas added seven points after sparking his team’s late run to end the third with a 42-37 lead.

“Both teams, we just fought. I think the score says it all. The first half was like 25 to 22. And that’s a one-quarter score. So both teams just came prepared especially in the defensive end, both teams also struggled offensively,” said UP assistant coach Christian Luanzon, speaking for Goldwin Monteverde. “We got it going in the third quarter, had a couple of bank shots from our players but more than that, they just fought hard and didn’t give up until the end. That’s hats off to all the players.”

Ateneo’s six straight Finals appearances under Tab Baldwin came to a halt. The Eagle barely made it to the Final Four with a 7-7 record as they needed to beat the Adamson Falcons in a playoff three days ago to clinch a spot.

Chris Koon led the Blue Eagles with 10 points, eight rebounds, and two assists. Kai Ballungay had eight points and six rebounds, while Ian Espinosa added seven markers.

Joseph Obasa had four points and 10 rebounds as he played through four personal fouls in his final UAAP game.

The scores:

UP (57) – Diouf 12, Lopez 12, Felicilda 10, Abadiano 9, Torculas 7, Cansino 3, Cagulangan 2, Alarcon 2, Pablo 0, Torres 0, Alter 0, Belmonte 0, Fortea 0.

Ateneo (46) – Koon 10, Ballungay 8, Espinosa 7, Amos 6, Obasa 4, Brown 3, Chiu 3, Credo 3, Quitevis 2, Lazaro 0.


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TAGS: Ateneo Blue Eagles, UAAP, UP Fighting Maroons

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