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Blue Eagles claim Game 1 against UP

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There is a reason why Ateneo entered the Finals as the big dog.

The Blue Eagles took care of business in Game 1 against the UP Fighting Maroons, 88-79, in the UAAP Season 81 best-of-three Finals at the Mall of Asia Arena, on Saturday, December 1.

Experience proved to be an important factor for Ateneo, however, UP didn’t come out in the Finals without a huge fight.

UP was able to grab the lead from time to time, and only down by two points at the end of third canto, 63-61, even without Bright Akhuetie who went down with a knee injury after a collision with fellow import Angelo Kouame during the 6:31 mark of the same period.

The Fighting Maroons were able to cut the lead by three in the final frame, 75-72, and it seems that they were fueled by Akhuetie’s miraculous comeback.

However, Ateneo would spoil his return after a 12-1 run capped of by Matt Nieto’s three-pointer, and never looked back.

No question, UP deserves to be in the Finals,” said Ateneo assistant coach Sandy Arrespacochaga.

“We have always said that whoever won that series will be a good match-up for us, and we have to play good both ends to win.”

Nieto led the Blue Eagles with career-high 27 points, while Thirdy Ravena flirted with a triple-double of 21 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists.

Jun Manzo emerged as UP’s top scorer with 19 points, four rebounds, and three assists. Juan Gomez De Liaño had 17 points and rebounds while Javi Gomez De Liaño had 11 markers on 3-of-shooting from the three-point area.

Ateneo will look to close out Game 2 to win their 10th overall championship on Wednesday, December 5, at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.