MANILA, Philippines — Zavier Lucero left it all on the floor as he led the scoring and the crucial defensive stops for University of the Philippines to take Game 1 of the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball Finals with a 72-66 victory over Ateneo on Sunday at Mall of Asia Arena.
The graduating 6-foot-7 forward prevented Chris Koon from tying the game as he blocked the two-handed dunk attempt of the latter that led to Harold Alarcon’s corner three that ignited a big run midway in the fourth.
Lucero also rejected Ange Kouame underneath to keep UP’s lead to four, 70-66, with 32 seconds remaining before JD Cagulangan sealed their Game 1 win with two crucial free throws.
The Filipino-American said he took the defensive responsibility and credited the team for always looking out for one another.
“As coach always said in practice, it’s 5 vs 1 on the floor so anytime there’s an opportunity to help, if somebody gets beat, it’s on us to be there for those guys to make sure that nobody gets left on an island,” said Lucero. “That was just me in the right place at the right time. All our guys made plays, stepped up. After I blocked Chris, Harold hit a big three for us so, it was a team effort tonight for sure.”
Lucero propelled the Fighting Maroons with an all-around game of 14 points, 10 rebounds, and two blocks as he just wanted to give his all in his final UAAP season.
“All of us have the responsibility of going in there and giving our best every single moment we’re on the floor, whether it’s one second or 30 minutes. For me, I’m just trying to do that. It’s been what I’m trying to do throughout my whole career not just here,” said the high-flying forward.
“This is it for this season so there’s nothing left to do but to leave it on the floor. So, we got a lot of guys playing through injuries, guys playing sick, and all that so, I’m glad that all of us were able to come together as one and give it our best,” he added.
After help UP inch closer to winning a second straight title in a year, Lucero is moving on from his big game and shifting his focus to Game 2, where they try to complete a series sweep against the Blue Eagles on Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“I hope that we can put this away by a good margin, if we can avoid any heroics that’d be nice. But whether it’s close or not, we gotta be ready for that and we gotta be poised and calm in that challenge and be able to come out on top no matter what. We got a great opportunity so we have to seize that,” Lucero said.
UP coach Goldwin Monteverde talks about their 72-66 victory over Ateneo with Zavier Lucero and Harold Alarcon stepping up in Finals Game 1 to move on the cusp of winning another UAAP title.
Posted by Inquirer Sports on Sunday, December 11, 2022
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