the rebound against BJ Andrade of Ateneo
during the UAAP Men’s Basketball Game. — PHILIPPIINE STAR/ RUSSELL PALMA
Game Today(Smart Araneta Coliseum)6 p.m. — UP vs ATENEO (winner-take-all Game 3)
THE Battle of Katipunan reaches yet another apex.
For the second straight season, archrivals University of the Philippines (UP) and Ateneo collide head on in a winner-take-all Game 3 of the finals with the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball title at stake at the Smart Araneta Coliseum today.
The battle lines are drawn in the fitting finals rematch and with both squads raring to go one last time at it after splitting the first two tussles in this best-of-three series, fireworks erupt at 6 p.m. to determine the realization of their respective fates.
Reigning champion UP, only seven months after ending a 36-year title drought on JD Cagulangan’s game-winner in the Season 84 finals against the same team, is out for more glory of winning a rare twin-title in 2022 compared to Ateneo’s bid to reclaim its rightful throne as the former three-time titlist.
From a theme of destiny against dynasty last season, domination versus redemption is the battlefield’s mantra this time with only one standing tall and proud to turn it into fruition after an expected all-or-nothing salvo.
Momentum is on the Blue Eagles’ nest after taking flight in Game 2, 65-55, to force a rubber match — which coach Tab Baldwin anticipates to be a harder nut to crack.
“It’s gonna get even tougher. We hope and pray that everybody can bring their best in Game 3. Basketball is winning. It’s a great thing for a sport we all love. I guess I’ll leave it there,” he said as Ateneo seeks to cap a redemption tour after missing out on a four-peat last season.
But the beleaguered UP — undermanned and all with the unfortunate ACL tear injury of versatile forward Zavier Lucero — vowed an unwavering resistance to frustrate Ateneo anew and retain their hard-earned Cup.
The Fighting Maroons took Game 1, 72-66, and was poised to become the first team in UAAP history to win two titles in just a year prior to a shellacking loss in Game 2, where they even absorbed a double whammy with Mr. Lucero’s gruesome injury in the fourth quarter.
Now more than ever, UP is out to fight. — John Bryan Ulanday