ATENEO inched closer to the UAAP Season 77 juniors basketball crown after nipping National University, 78-76, in Game Two of the finals on Tuesday at The Arena in San Juan.
The Blue Eaglets, who hold a thrice-to-beat advantage in the finals after a 14-game sweep of the eliminations, are now one win away from claiming the title.
Jolo Mendoza scored 20 points, spearheading third-period run as the Blue Eaglets bounced back from the loss in the finals opener.
[See Mark Dyke double-double helps NU Bullpups shatter Blue Eaglets' cloak of invincibility]
Game Three is set on Friday at The Arena in San Juan where the Blue Eaglets will look to finish the series and capture their 19th UAAP juniors crown.
“I just told the boys to enjoy the game and have fun because that is what we do best,” Ateneo coach Joe Silva.
Mendoza led a 13-0 run that turned a 52-50 gap into a 65-50 advantage in the third period, the biggest lead of the game.
Matt Nieto finished with 18 points, while Mike Nieto added 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Blue Eaglets.
Philip Manalang scored 19 points and led the Bullpups’ comeback attempt in the fourth period. He cut Ateneo’s lead to two points, 78-76, but NU had little time left.
“NU is the defending champion. They’ll give a hell of a fight. We just needed to be composed,” Silva said.
Mark Dyke had 12 points and 16 rebounds, while John Clemente and Justine Baltazar had 12 and 10 points, respectively for the Bullpups, who still need to win twice in order to capture their second straight crown.
Ateneo (78)—Mendoza 20, Ma. Nieto 18, Mi. Nieto 16, Mamuyac 10, Ildefonso 6, Andrade 4, Joson 2, Ramos 2, Hassan 0, Salandanan 0, Eustaquio 0, Rosales 0, Bernardo 0.
NU (76)—Manalang 19, Dyke 12, Clemente 12, Baltazar 10, Ferreras 8, Mina 7, Sta. Ana 6, De Guzman 2, Calma 0, Claveria 0, Atienza 0, Camaso 0, Callejo 0, Saquian 0.
Quarterscores: 19-18; 40-36; 67-54; 78-76.