ATENEO de Manila University ended a four-year wait for its 19th crown, hacking out a 90-73 victory over National University (NU) in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 77 juniors basketball championship on Friday at The Arena in San Juan City.
Coach Joe Silva, who never tasted a championship as a player in 1998 as his team lost to Alwyn Espiritu-led University of Santo Tomas in the title round, offered the victory to his mother who passed away before last season’s Finals.
”After that ordeal, I leave it to the Lord and I’ll just enjoy coaching the boys,” said Silva, who won first title since taking over from Jamike Jarin in 2011.
The Blue Eaglets took the last two Finals games after losing the opener which ended its 14-game winning streak.
In Game 1, Jolo Mendoza was not at his usual best but the 17-year old Batang Gilas standout bounced back when mattered to be named the Finals Most Valuable Player.
Mendoza finished with 30 points, including 21 in the first half where Ateneo pulled away, 52-34.
The Bullpups were able to trim down the deficit to 69-74 on John Lloyd Clemente’s back-to-back baskets before the Eaglets unloaded a telling 11-0 run capped by a Mike Nieto jumper to put the game beyond recall, 85-69, with 3:02 remaining.
Mendoza, who narrowly missed the Mythical Five selection, averaged 21.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists in the title series.
Matthew Nieto added 25 points, six rebounds and two assists while Mike Nieto, the season MVP, had 12 points and eight boards for Ateneo.
Clemente led NU with 24 points and seven rebounds while Jordan Sta. Ana and Philip Manalang had 13 and 10 points, respectively.
Mark Dyke, the Bullpups main pillar in the middle, had 14 boards but struggled offensively with nine markers.