MANILA, Philippines – Kai Ballungay provided much-needed energy for Ateneo with his rebounds and emphatic dunks in the fourth quarter to defeat archrival La Salle, 77-72, in the UAAP Season 86 Men’s Basketball Tournament on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Ballungay dived over his defenders to give the Blue Eagles a 72-67 breather with just a minute remaining and they never looked back to earn their first win in two games.
“I just want to do my job. Do whatever I can to help this team, whether it’s on the board tonight like I did, making plays like that,” said Ballungay, who dropped 18 points and grabbed 16 rebounds.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
After being limited to just four points on 0-for-6 shooting from the field in their opening-game loss to National University, the Filipino-American forward insisted his vicious dunks were just part of his job to help the team help you bounce back.
“Whatever it is, I just want to be able to help my team. I don’t chase those kinds of opportunities. I want to keep it simple and just do my job. That’s something the coaching staff has preached to us. Just do your job and play for what’s there tonight,” he said.
Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin praised Ballungay’s rebounding as he grabbed the team’s 27 offensive boards.
“Twenty-seven is a huge offensive performance, which is an indication that our guys have gone to war. I don’t know that Kai can take down twelve. That actually goes beyond Ange Kouame-esque. That really says something,” said the Ateneo coach.
Ballungay, one of the holdovers from last year’s title run, said the new Blue Eagles responded to Baldwin after the four-time UAAP champion coach complained about their lack of fight last Saturday.
“The coaching staff was discussing the last few days just to come to this game and fight. It is something we missed in the first game and something we have to adjust coming into this game, especially because it is a rivalry game,” he said.
“We just wanted to show our sense of pride and show that we can beat the guys who can finish first and beat the guys who can be physical and not just take a beating every night. I think it really showed tonight, especially on the boards. A lot of our guys did a great job reaching the boards and pulling them down.
Ballungay was delighted to get their first win of the season against their rivals but will not want to squander the momentum they gained as Ateneo looks to get their second straight win against Adamson at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Saturday.
“It’s definitely something that will boost our morale going forward. We just have to look at it as one game and keep moving forward, definitely build on this, and take what we can take and learn from the experiences that we have in this game, and just keep building,” Ballungay said.
Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin, Kai Ballungay and Mason Amos after earning their first win of the #UAAPSeason86 with a 77-72 win.
Posted by Researcher Sports on Wednesday, October 4, 2023