Katipunan rivals UP, Ateneo tip off UAAP championship battle

John Bryan Ulanday - Philstar.com
Katipunan rivals UP, Ateneo tip off UAAP championship battle
The UP Fighting Maroons and the Ateneo Blue Eagles collide for the crown in UAAP Season 85 in Game 1 at the Mall of Asia Arena on Sunday

MANILA, Philippines — Retention versus redemption is the name of the game as reigning champion University of the Philippines and former three-time titlist Ateneo tear another page in their storied rivalry when the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball best-of-three finals unfolds Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

For the second straight and third overall in the last four seasons, the Katipunan rivals collide once more with the Fighting Maroons shooting for another piece of history after ending a 36-year title drought last summer – at the expense of no less than the then Blue Eagles’ dynasty.

UP sports a once in a lifetime opportunity to become the first team to win two UAAP titles in one year as Ateneo on its sixth straight finals appearance all under the watch of master tactician Tab Baldwin seeks reclamation of its rightful throne.

The archrivals lock horn at 6 p.m. with little to no time to brace for impact of an expected colossal clash after the equally gigantic duel between six-time reigning champion National U and La Salle in Game 2 of the women’s basketball finals at 1:30 p.m.

Riding on an easy 93-61 win in Game 1, the Lady Bulldogs go for the clincher to extend rule for seven seasons and counting as their ultimate goal despite seeing its 108-game streak fall at the hands of the same team.

But as the stars would align following their iconic Season 84 duel that ended on JD Cagulangan’s magical buzzer-beater, the spotlight is on the good neighbors from Katipunan that split their prelims match-up at 1-1.

“Syempre, it means a lot to win two championships in one year. We’re happy that we'll be getting another chance to win a championship,” said coach Goldwin Monteverde on the potential twin title in 2022.

Achieving that tall order is easier said than done though, Monteverde admitted, especially with a whole different Ateneo squad standing in their way.

UP, despite a slight stumble to end the elims at No. 2 seed, took care of No. 3 NU in the Final Four with a gritty 69-61 win while the top-ranked Ateneo – peaking at the right time – dismantled fourth-seeded Adamson, 81-60 for its seventh straight win.

Ateneo, however, still sees itself as the underdogs against the intact UP unit with basically a younger squad compared to the veteran team last season that nonetheless failed to extend their dynasty.

“We're still the heavy underdogs in this game. That Ateneo team in May had a lot more experience than this team but I think this team has the DNA of underdogs. This team has a resolve to prove themselves because they haven't, yet. And if we're gonna win a championship, we need to,” said Baldwin.

Games Sunday

Mall of Asia Arena

2:00 p.m. – NU vs DLSU (women’s finals Game 2)
6 p.m. – UP vs ADMU (men’s finals Game 1)



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