The UP Fighting Maroons are set to claim a back-to-back championship title after clinching the Finals Game 1 last December 11 at the Mall of Asia Arena. Zavier Lucero (14 points), JD Cagulangan (12 points), and Harold Alarcon (11 points) were the top Maroon scorers of Game 1. While the team finished strong in the end game, the UP Men’s Basketball Team hurdled stumbling blocks before sealing their precious win.
The Ateneo Blue Eagles scored first. But then, UP Fighting Maroons’ Zavier Lucero answered quickly with his 2-point shot. The tight defense and sure-fire shots by the team, especially in the last two minutes of the quarter, led the team to a winning streak and finished off with a 9-point lead.
In the second quarter, the Ateneo Blue Eagles got a scoring opportunity with Rence Padrigao’s and Dave Ildefonso’s 3-point shots. With a strong defense and rebound, ADMU could shorten UP’s lead score by 5 points. Leading toward the end, Lucero was able to seal the quarter with a 7-point lead.
Despite the good defense and rebound, the UP Fighting Maroons are still ADMU’s threat. From an 8-point lead at the start of the third quarter, the Blue Eagles could cope with a good defense and offense that led to only a 4-point deficit against UP at the end of the third quarter.
The fourth quarter run was a series of aggressive responses from the UP Fighting Maroons and the Ateneo Blue Eagles. The tug-of-war of answers in shooting points, rebounds, and turnovers caused the neck-and-neck situation toward the last 10 minutes of the quarter. The UP Men’s Basketball Team worked up the final quarter to secure a consistent score lead. Highlighting the quarter was the crucial power block by Lucero and the back-to-back 3-point shot by Harold Alarcon that maintained UP’s lead by 10 points.
ADMU’s Dave Ildefonso was able to make a surge for the Blue Eagles’ score in the last quarter, which limited UP’s lead score to only 5 points. At the last minute of the quarter, the UP Fighting Maroons were able to secure the lead with Carl Tamayo’s and JD Cagulangan’s free throws ending the game in their favor with 72 points against 66 points for ADMU.
Coach Goldwyn Monteverde said during the post-game presscon, “it started with a good defense. I like the ball movement and the team sustaining the group work.” He also added that the team must focus on the next game.
When asked about his thoughts on the Finals Game 1 outcome, Harold Alarcon expressed that “winning the first game is a big thing to take the momentum up in the second game. “Lahat gagawin namin para makakuha ng back-to-back [championship title],” he said.
Zavier Lucero told the press that he is focusing on the next game. “It is always our responsibility to give our best. For me, I’m just trying to do that. This is it for this season; there’s nothing left to do. I’m glad that we all come together as one to do our best,” he added. UP vs. ADMU Finals Game 2 will be held on December 14 at 6 PM at the Big Dome.