NATIONAL University handed Ateneo its first loss of UAAP Season 77 juniors basketball season, 76-72, in Game One of their championship series on Friday at The Arena in San Juan.
Mark Dyke had 20 points and 17 rebounds to lead the charge for the Bullpups, who handed the Blue Eaglets their first defeat after winning all 14 games in the eliminations to gain a thrice-to-beat advantage in the finals.
The Bullpups practically tied the title series as the reigning champions need to win two more games to reclaim the title and seal a ‘triple crown’ in UAAP basketball this season.
NU led by as many as 14 points in the series opener before staving off repeated rallies by the Blue Eaglets.
After a rocky second round that saw the Bullpups win only three games, NU coach Jeff Napa said the victory is another boost to their confidence going into Game Two, scheduled on Tuesday at The Arena in San Juan.
“Credit to my boys kasi we executed our game plan,” said Napa. “Pinrove nila na nabalik na ‘yung confidence nila dahil all throughout the eliminations, nawala ‘yung confidence.”
John Clemente had 17 points while Philip Manalang chipped in 14 markers for the Bullpups. Justine Baltazar also grabbed 17 rebounds.
“Alam naman namin na ‘yung Ateneo hindi basta-basta magpapatalo. Kaming coaching staff, we are just trying to motivate the players. Kinuha namin ‘yung loob nila para magkaroon sila ng confidence,” Napa added.
Season MVP Mike Nieto had 25 points including six triples while twin brother Matt Nieto and Jolo Mendoza had 19 and 14 points, respectively, for the Blue Eaglets, who were coming off a two-week break after clinching an outright place in the finals.
NU began the second half with nine straight points to post the biggest lead of the game, 45-31. The Bullpups' lead was trimmed to a point, 60-59, in the fourth by the full court-pressing Blue Eaglets before a six-point burst regained control for NU.
NU (76)—Dyke 20, Clemente 17, Manalang 14, Sta. Ana 6, Ferreras 6, Atienza 5, Baltazar 3, Mina 3, Saquian 2, Calma 0, De Guzman 0, Claveria 0, Camaso 0, Callejo 0.
Ateneo (72)—Mi. Nieto 25, Ma. Nieto 19, Mendoza 14, Mamuyac 5, Andrade 5, Joson 4, Ildefonso 0, Ramos 0, Hassan 0, Salandanan 0, Eustaquio 0.
Quarterscores: 19-19, 36-31, 56-49, 78-72.