UAAP: Gomez latest to embody Ateneo's 'next man up' mentality

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 28 2022 01:56 PM

Ateneo's Gab Gomez. UAAP Media.
Ateneo's Gab Gomez. UAAP Media.

MANILA, Philippines -- Gab Gomez provided some much-needed stability for Ateneo de Manila University in their breakthrough victory over the University of the Philippines (UP) on Saturday. 

The second-year floor general was called to action in crunch time and showed no fear of the moment, drilling a clutch three-pointer while calmly navigating the Fighting Maroons' pressure defense. He finished with five points and three assists in 16 minutes as the Blue Eagles held on for a 75-67 win that assured them of a twice-to-beat advantage in the Final 4 of UAAP Season 85.

"It was a tough game. UP, talagang sila No. 1 eh. Sila 'yung team to beat," said Gomez after the game, which improved Ateneo's record to 10-3 with one game left on their schedule.

"But I'm so proud of our team kasi everyone, nag-step up talaga. Nasa culture talaga ng Ateneo ang mag-step up, so I'm so proud of our team," he added. 

Gomez is the latest Ateneo player to embody their "next man up" mentality, as head coach Tab Baldwin needed him on the floor while their starting point guard dealt with cramps. 

Baldwin praised Gomez's poise, particularly against a UP team that has a bevy of stout defenders at the perimeter. 

"Somebody had to step up, and this is the guy that we've nominated to do that job," Baldwin said of Gomez. "And when you have to go up against [JD] Cagulangan, [Cyril] Gonzales, [Gerry] Abadiano, [Harold] Alarcon -- one after another they throw at you, all of these guys [are] great pressure defenders."

"And Gab runs our offense, he makes two turnovers, and I think the second one he didn't even know, he was so tired. Just a tremendous performance," he added. 

It was Gomez who gave Ateneo its biggest lead, as his three-pointer with 3:18 left -- his lone field goal of the game -- put them ahead 73-60. UP would slash the lead to six points but Ateneo's defense held firm in the closing stretch, anchored by reigning Most Valuable Player Ange Kouame.

"A huge key in the fourth quarter was us doing a reasonably good job taking care of the ball, particularly in the point guard's hands, and that was him [Gomez]," said Baldwin. "I think without that performance, we'd really struggle to hold onto that lead."

Gomez entered the game averaging just 3.3 points and 2.1 assists in nearly 14 minutes of action per contest, but knew that he had to stay ready in case his number was called by Baldwin.

"Ang mentality namin, dapat lahat ready. 'Pag tinawag ka, just be ready lang and ready to do your job," he said.

Ateneo will play again on Wednesday, and a win over Adamson University will give them the No. 1 seed in the Final 4. 

UAAP Season 85 is streaming on iWantTFC every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, available for Premium users outside the Philippines.

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