|FLY HIGH. Ateneo reclaimed the crown as UAAP's greatest in high school basketball after topping NU in Game Three. Franchesca Nicole Collantes|
By Kevin Estrada
SAN JUAN -- Ateneo High School regained their UAAP Juniors crown for the first time in three years after surviving an uprising by a battle tested Nazareth-NU side, 63-58 in the third and final game of the championship series early Friday evening at the FilOil-FlyingV Centre.
The Blue Eaglets overcame a six-point deficit midway into the final frame, finishing the Bullpups with a 15-4 rally to clinched their 19th title in the league, and 30th overall in high school basketball after finishing the season at 16-1.
Finals MVP Kai Sotto fired a double double of 19 points and 13 rebounds off the bench for coach Joe Silva to reclaim the title for the first time since season 77, where they have the Batang Gilas trio of Jolo Mendoza, and twins Matt and Mike Nieto.
|Kai Sotto cap off a double double to be named as Finals MVP. Franchesca Nicole Collantes|
Graduating guard SJ Belangel backstop Sotto with 16 points, including seven in the payoff period.
With the title win, Ateneo completed the double of the men's and the juniors' title for the fourth time in the past decade, and their first since season 73.
Ateneo went to work early in the game, establishing leads by as much as twelve before heading into the break with a five-point cushion.
But NU came back roaring in the third behind Terrence Fortea who had half of his fourteen markers in the penultimate frame and even grabbed the lead but Sotto responded with a three-point play of his own to get the lead back heading into the final canto.
The see-saw action continued in the early stages in the fourth but Fortea, and Rhayyan Amsali ignited a 7-0 run to taste the lead for the final time, 54-48 with 4:05 to go.
But Sotto and Belangel connived for the coup-de-grace blitz as they combined for 10 of the final 15 Blue Eaglet points to reclaim the throne.
Ateneo High 63 -- Sotto 19, Belangel 16, Ildefonso 13, Credo 4, Manuel 4, Chiu 4, David 3, Escalona 0, Jaymalin 0, Santos 0.
Nazareth-NU 58 -- Fortea 14, Minerva 13, Manalang 8, Oczon 7, Amsali 6, Javillonar 5, Pangilinan 3, Malonzo 2, Coyoca 0.
Quarter Scores: 15-6, 28-23, 44-43, 63-58.
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