Ateneo de Manila University reclaimed the crown it lost last May, outlasting University of the Philippines in Game Three of the UAAP Season 85 men's basketball Finals, 75-68, in front of 21,814 fans at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Monday.
This is Ateneo's 12th championship and its fourth in the last five seasons.
"Those guys. Those guys right there, those people right there, and the support of the Ateneo people worldwide. A great start to the game, a great first half, and we weathered the storm," said Blue Eagles head coach Tab Baldwin.
Down 12 midway through the fourth, Fighting Maroons Malick Diouf, Henry Galinato, and James Spencer made seven straight points, capped by the latter's three-pointer with 2:12 left, to inch within five, 62-67.
But Ange Kouame, in the ensuing play, followed up on Chris Koon's layup miss for the putback as he was fouled, swishing the bonus for a brand new eight point lead with 1:48 to go, 70-62.
Carl Tamayo then split his charities on the other end before misses from both sides.
Harold Alarcon was then fouled from downtown, making the first before missing the second. In his third try, he purposely flunked it then went for the offensive board, ran to the left corner and made a triple to cut the UP deficit to just three with 20.1 seconds left, 67-70.
The Fighting Maroons tried BJ Andrade at the line, but the senior sniper made both free throws to put the Blue Eagles back up by five with 12.3 seconds remaining, 72-67.
Off a timeout, Alarcon launched from deep but missed as Sean Quitevis sealed the game with a conversion from the line.
Finals MVP Kouame finished his Ateneo career with 19 points, 12 rebounds, and four blocks. He averaged 17.66 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks in the series.
"This means a lot to me because nobody believed in us, even if we didn't believe in us in the start. But Coach Tab is the man and we just followed his lead," said the 6-foot-11 naturalized Filipino.
"I'm so far from the forefront of this championship. It's about these players. I'm just so grateful for their effort. I'm the lucky guy," added Baldwin.
Gomez had 12 points on three triples, while Forthsky Padrigao also got 12. Andrade rounded out the double-digit scorers with 10 of his own.
Aside from Kouame, Andrade, and Dave Ildefonso have played their last game for the Blue Eagles.
On the other hand, Galinato, Brix Ramos, and Zavier Lucero have likewise exhausted their eligibility for the Fighting Maroons.
Spencer topscored for UP with 14 points while Alarcon and Galinato made 12 points apiece with six and seven rebounds, respectively.
Tamayo was held to just 11 points on 4-of-17 shooting from the field with nine rebounds to his name.
Lucero, who missed the game due to a knee injury he sustained back in Game Two last Wednesday, was given the send-off he deserved by UP as he was brought in for a technical free throw with 0.7 seconds left in the game.