MANILA, Philippines—A well-rested Ateneo de Manila University squad plunges back into action on Saturday, when it takes on University of Santo Tomas in Game 1 of the UAAP Season 82 men's basketball finals at Araneta Coliseum.
The Blue Eagles, seeking a third consecutive UAAP title, have not played since October 30, when they clobbered University of the Philippines, 86-64, to complete a 14-game sweep of the elimination round.
UST, for its part, has all the momentum after winning three straight knockout games in the stepladder semifinals. The Growling Tigers took down Far Eastern University, 81-71, in the first phase, then routed UP, 89-69, to force a deciding game for the second spot in the Finals.
In the do-or-die game last Wednesday, the Growling Tigers hacked out a 68-65 triumph on the strength of a clutch 3-pointer from veteran point guard Renzo Subido, and a pair of game-icing free throws from Season 82 MVP Soulemane Chabi Yo.
Game time between Ateneo and UST is at 4 p.m.
"We are grateful that we reached this far, but this is not our main goal," said UST head coach Aldin Ayo.
The Tigers are making their first finals appearance since 2015, when they bowed to FEU in three games.
They will be the underdogs against the Blue Eagles, who have won their games by an average margin of 17 points in the elimination round.
"'Yung mindset namin every game, laging underdog," said UST team captain CJ Cansino. "Kasi ayaw namin maging kumpyansa sa laro. So every game, nagpe-prepare talaga kami na parang underdog kami."
UST has proven to be a thorn on Ateneo's side in Season 82, however. The Blue Eagles eked out a 71-70 win in their first game, before taking a 66-52 victory in the rematch. Their margin of victory against the Tigers -- 7.5 points -- is the lowest among all of their opponents.
Meanwhile, at noon, the UST Golden Tigresses and the FEU Lady Tamaraws face off for the second and last spot in the women's basketball finals.
The Lady Tams claimed a hard-earned 48-46 win on Wednesday to force a decider against the twice-to-beat Tigresses.
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