SPITFIRE guard Kean Baclaan rose to the occasion, sparking the National University Bulldogs early to help them author a 76-69 win over the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles in the 2023 Filoil EcoOil Preseason Cup on Thursday, May 25, 2023, at the Filoil EcoOil Center in San Juan.

The 5-foot-10 playmaker fired nine of his 26 points in the Bulldogs’ 20-8 burst in the first seven minutes of the ballgame.

Just as the Blue Eagles made a run, head coach Tab Baldwin was ejected after getting slapped with two technical fouls in succession for continuous complaining.

Still, the UAAP champions showed their poise and even tied the score at 57-all late in the third quarter before Baclaan’s buzzer-beating trey over Sean Quitevis detonated a 12-4 blast that re-established a 69-61 advantage in National U’s favor with five minutes remaining.

“We’re far from satisfied. Luckily, the players were willing to step up today,” said head coach Jeff Napa.

Ateneo again threatened at 66-72 with 2:30 to go until two straight inside hits from John Lloyd Clemente and Mike Malonzo kept them at bay once and for all.

Malonzo wound up with eight points and eight rebounds, while Clemente ended with seven points to flank Baclaan who collected six assists and five rebounds.

Jared Brown topped the scoring column for the Blue Eagles with 13 points, as Jason Credo and Kai Ballungay chipped in 10 points apiece.

Now at 0-2, they turn their attention to a rivalry game against De La Salle University on Sunday, May 28, still at the same venue. (JNP)