Since it’s the weekend of the University of the Philippines College Admission Test (Upcat), it would be fitting to give people or future Peyups students an overview on the little “war” that goes on in Katipunan between Ateneo and UP. Whether in academics or sports, the “Katipuneros” have always been in a constant state of combat.
And as far as the UAAP is concerned, Ateneo and UP could virtually be on opposite ends of the rankings, but this did not always determine the result of the games. For some strange reason, when playing against Ateneo, UP suddenly becomes a dangerous team, a major threat. All bets are off when the two duke it out on the hardcourt.
In the many years that I’ve been watching the games, I never really found a logical explanation for it. But one thing I’m sure of is that there’s a unique and special energy that swirls around an Ateneo-UP match.
Aside from the territorial boundary of their respective campuses that extend to Katipunan Avenue, the games between the Blue Eagles and the Fighting Maroons are usually elevated to a higher level, regardless of team standings or performance.
Historically speaking, Ateneo has the obvious edge in terms of wins over UP. But there have been several upsets in seasons past that have left mouths wide open and jaws on the floor.
Last Sunday’s game at the Mall of Asia Arena was not one of them. It was a crucial game for both teams because a victory would boost one’s chances of cracking into the Final Four.
Despite Ateneo’s current misfortune at the bottom of the team standings, the five-time defending champion proved to be too much for UP to handle.
Right from the opening salvo, Ateneo got its offense going. Kiefer Ravena and JP Erram saw a lot of action, despite not having fully recovered from their injuries.
The first half was a push-and-pull situation for both teams. The Blue Eagles maintained a close lead with the Maroons right on their heels. Halfway into the second quarter, UP got a quick taste of the lead after a 7-0 run, which included a triple from Jason Ligad, to push them ahead by a point.
Ateneo responded with back-to-back triples by Ryan Buenafe (who was also recovering from an ankle sprain) to keep them up, 33-28. Just when the Ateneo crowd started to come alive, Nico Elorde buried a basket right on the buzzer, pulling the Blue Eagles comfortably ahead at half-time, 38-30.
Ateneo has never been known to take risks with its half-time routines. The Blue Babble Battalion served up a solid routine of traditional cheers, to the delight of the crowd clad in blue.
The UP Pep Squad brought in the noise and funk with a ’70s-inspired routine. They certainly kept the crowd entertained with legendary, risky and creative routines, moving to Pinoy tunes like “Rock Baby Rock,” “Urong Sulong,” “Macho Gwapito” and “Katawan.” These guys aren’t multiple cheerleading champions for nothing. And this was evident in the applause and appreciation they received from both schools.
The third quarter saw Ateneo pad its lead to 19 (the biggest in the game), thanks to the added efforts of Juami Tiongson, Chris Newsome and Vince Tolentino. By this time, the Blue Eagles were running like a well-oiled machine, with their championship experience and skill on full display.
And just when it seemed like it was going to be a runaway victory for the Blue Eagles, the Fighting Maroons gave them quite a scare by cutting the lead down to eight. But Ateneo was not going to allow another meltdown. And to drive home this point, the Blue Eagles sent out a statement loud and clear with an astounding alley-oop slam dunk by Newsome via a Tiongson pass to keep the Maroons at bay.
This sent the Ateneo crowd into a wild frenzy. In spite of a gallant fight by UP, Ateneo closed out the game 72-64 to notch its second victory in six outings, while UP remained winless at 0-6.
There was no upset. It wasn’t even a close game, despite UP’s minirun. But the same old spirit of Katipunan was present as ever, from the hardcourt all the way to the bleachers.
Just like this one, not all games are as closely fought. But that doesn’t make the experience less thrilling. They may be foes, bitter rivals even, but unlike in other games, there is always a sense of respect and admiration that emanates from certain battles in a little land called Katipunan.