By Jan Paolo S. Pasco

There will be no revenge this time, says the Fighting Maroons as Carl Tamayo resurrected their championship pedigree.

Photo Courtesy of UAAP

Tamayo has proven why he is arguably the best UAAP collegiate player after lifting the defending champions, University of the Philippines to a dramatic overtime win, 76-71, over Ateneo De Manila University in their highly anticipated rematch of last season's finals during the UAAP Season 85 Men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena, Sunday night.

The 6-foot-8 star forward provided a much-needed spark for the Fighting Maroons as he put up a monster double-double of 20 points, including six in OT, and 13 rebounds to help his team overcome the Blue Eagles' late fourth-quarter scare before a raucous 12,000 crowd inside the arena.

The win allowed UP to get back in the win column and get a share of the top spot lead with a 4-1 win-loss record, tying with the NU Bulldogs, who pulled a shocker over the defending titlists last Wednesday. 

“I’m thankful for the trust of my teammates. They made an effort to hand me the ball and push me to make those shots even though I struggled early,” said Tamayo after the game. 

Coming off a 64-64 thriller at the end of regulation, the Fighting Maroons managed to shake off their jitters in the extra period as they uncorked a 7-2 blast, five of which came from Tamayo, who drilled pivotal baskets when it needed the most to lead the Blue Eagles by 5, 71-66.

However, Ateneo did not back down as it retaliated with a crucial 5-2 spurt, highlighted by Forthsky Padrigao's clutch triple to cut UP's lead by two points, 73-71 with 23.4 seconds remaining. The Blue Eagles could have tied the match at 74-74, but Kai Ballungay missed a much-needed three pointer to complete their comeback before Malick Diouf split his free throws to seal the deal, 76-71.

"I believe today we played better as a team. We moved the ball well and we really got tested. Ang maganda doon, the whole team just stayed together and did their best to execute on both ends," said coach Goldwin Monteverde. 

It was a toe-to-toe affair for both teams in the first half after knotting the score at 28-28 with 2:50 left in the second quarter. Meanwhile, Ateneo star guard Dave Ildefonso took over late as he drained baskets after baskets, spearheading his team's 18-9 run to close out the second canto on top by 5, 38-33.

The Monteverde-mentored squad fought back in the early third quarter after pulling a seven-to-nothing run to reclaim the advantage, 40-38. The match turned more heated in the late third after exchanging baskets as the Blue Eagles only up by one, 54-53, entering the fourth quarter.

The Fighting Maroons showed grit and poise in the fourth while also tightening their defense which paved the way to get a comfortable lead, 64-57, led by Tamayo, Diouf, and James Spencer. But Padrigao played a man on a mission after hitting cold-blooded triples that tied the match at 64-64 to force the game into overtime.

Spencer made his presence felt when it mattered most, churning out 14 points and six rebounds, while Zavier Lucero chipped in 10 markers and seven boards to help Tamayo in UP's offensive surge.

Season 84 Finals MVP Diouf poured 12  points, four assists, two rebounds, and steals, while JD Cagulangan, who made his comeback after missing the first four games due to a left hamstring injury, tallied seven markers, seven rebounds, five assists, and four steals in a win.

Ildefonso paced the Blue Eagles with a team-high 22 points and 12 rebounds, Padrigao scored 15, including much-needed buckets, while Ange Kouame added 10 markers in a loss.

With the loss, the last season’s first runner-up dropped at 3-2 slate, falling to the third spot in a three-way tie with De La Salle University and the University of the East.

Moreover, UP will try to extend its game-winning streak as it faces UE while the Blue Eagles seek to regain composure when it collides with the Soaring Falcons on Wednesday.