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UAAP finals: UP on cusp of title, rallies to stun Ateneo in OT


Zavier Lucero UP UAAP finals

University of the Philippines’ Zavier Lucero chases down a shot in Game 1 of the UAAP Season 84 men’s basketball finals at Mall of Asia Arena. UAAP PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — Zavier Lucero and Ricci Rivero willed University of the Philippines to a come-from-behind victory over defending Ateneo, 81-74, in overtime and move on the cusp of the UAAP Season 84 men’s basketball championship on Sunday at Mall of Asia Arena.

Down 68-60 in the final two minutes of the payoff period, Lucero, who went 0-of-9 in their do-or-die final game against La Salle and missed his first four shots in the first two quarters, scored seven straight points to cut down the lead to 70-67 before James Spencer delivered the game-tying triple.

The Filipino-American forward also drilled a corner triple in overtime that tied the game at 74 with 3:46 remaining.

Rivero also stepped up when it mattered most in the extra session, giving the Fighting Maroons a 77-74 edge off a three-point play and making a crucial steal that led to Carl Tamayo’s lay-up for a 79-74 breather.

The graduating guard then, blocked Ange Kouame with 44 seconds to go before he sealed UP’s first Finals win since 1986 with two free throws.

The Fighting Maroons try to knock the Blue Eagles off their perch on Wednesday at 6 p.m.

Rivero led the scoring for UP with 19 points and had a tremendous defensive effort with four steals and two blocks, while Lucero put up 17 points and 13 rebounds as they prevailed in front of 11,582 fans.

“Our team went through a lot of ups and downs. But we just kept reminding each other not to give up. Try to be consistent in the game and keep on fighting until the final buzzer,” said UP head coach Goldwin Monteverde after upsetting Ateneo for the second time this season despite their 28-of-83 shooting.

Spencer was also instrumental with 13 points on 3-of-4 shooting from deep. Malick Diouf chipped in 10 points and 15 rebounds, while Tamayo also scored 10 and collected nine boards, five steals and two blocks.

Ateneo failed to score a basket in the final four minutes of overtime, falling on the brink of getting dethroned after ruling the last three UAAP seasons.

MVP frontrunner Kouame led Ateneo with 18 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks, four assists and two steals. SJ Belangel fired four triples to finish with 17 points before he hurt his leg in the final minute of overtime, while Raffy Verano also had 17 points and nine rebounds.

The Scores:
UP 81 — Rivero 19, Lucero 17, Spencer 13, Diouf 10, Tamayo 10, Cagulangan 4, Alarcon 4, Abadiano 4, Fortea 0, Ramos 0.
ATENEO 74 — Kouame 18, Belangel 17, Verano 17, Mamuyac 7, Ildefonso 6, Andrade 3, Chiu 2, Koon 2, Daves 2, Tio 0, Padrigao 0.
Quarters: 17-19, 32-31, 49-54, 70-70, 81-74.

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