Blue Eaglets dethrone Bullpups, stop rare UAAP basketball treble

By Ivan Saldajeno

SAN JUAN CITY--Not even a Game 1 loss will stop Ateneo from meeting a date with destiny.

The Blue Eaglets blew out the NU Bullpups, 90-73, to clinch their first UAAP juniors basketball title in the post-Kiefer Ravena era at the FilOil Flying V Arena.

The Eaglets, owners of a thrice-to-beat advantage as a bonus for sweeping the eliminations, conceded Game 1 to the Bullpups but regrouped and took the next two games for the crown.

Ateneo built a huge lead at halftime and staved off a late NU rally to avenge its defeat in last season's finals and stop the latter from duplicating the feat of the 1994 UST basketball teams which completed a triple crown.

Behind the hot hands of Jolo Mendoza, the Blue Eaglets outscored the Bullpups, 30-13, in the second quarter to build a 52-34 cushion at halftime. Mendoza scored 19 points in that period.

However, NU opened the third quarter on a 15-3 run to cut the lead to six, 55-49, with 4:53 remaining in that period.

Ateneo then answered with a 9-2 run to rebuild the double-digit spread before NU ended the quarter with six straight points to put it back to eight, 65-57.

Five free throws from the Blue Eaglets started the scoring in the fourth quarter and pushed their lead to 13, 70-57, with 8:11 remaining.

But the Bullpups answered with 12-4 run to draw to within five, 69-74, with 5:16 left.

A long two from Mendoza and four straight charities from Matt Nieto ignited the game-turning 16-4 run for Ateneo to clinch the title, its first since Ravena steered the team to a three-peat from 2008 to 2010.

Mendoza finished with 30 points, three rebounds, and two assists. He was eventually named the Finals MVP.

Nieto added 25 points despite only making four field goals as he converted 16 free throws. He added six rebounds, two assists, one steal, and one block.

His twin brother Mike, the season MVP, had a quiet 12 points and eight rebounds, although he got two steals and a block.

John Clemente led the Bullpups with 24 points and seven rebounds, but he accounted for six of their 24 turnovers.

Foul trouble limited Jordan Sta. Ana to only 13 points. He added three rebounds, three assists, and two steals.

Mark Dyke only made nine points but grabbed 14 rebounds and dished five assists.

Ateneo 90–Mendoza 30, Ma. Nieto 25. Mi. Nieto 12, Mamuyac 8, Salandanan 6, Ramos 5, Joson 3, Hassan 1, Ildefonso 0, Andrade 0, Eustaquio 0, Termoso 0, Bernardo 0, Gatmaitan 0, Moreno 0, Rosales 0

NU 73—Clemente 24, Sta. Ana 13, Manalang 10, Dyke 9, Baltazar 7, Camaso 5, Atienza 3, Ferreras 2, Mina 0, De Guzman 0, Callejo 0, Claveria 0, Saquian 0, Dela Cruz 0, Penano 0

Quarterscores: 22-21, 52-34, 65-57, 90-73