Whatever happens from here on out in the eliminations of the UAAP 80 Men’s Basketball Tournament, Ateneo de Manila University will be sticking around for the next round.
Knocked down by Far Eastern University in the earlygoing on Saturday at the Araneta Coliseum, the Blue Eagles just got back up before throwing a haymaker of their own in the endgame for a 70-59 come from behind win.
The league-leaders seemed out of sync in the first half, even finding themselves in a 12-point hole before regrouping in the in the last 15 minutes of the game. “We didn’t start off on the right foot. We had a bad first quarter, but we are quite happy with the final three quarters,” coach Sandy Arespacochaga said.
They were still down by five, 47-52, early in the fourth before six different players got together for a 15-2 rally and a 62-54 lead with under five minutes remaining.
Ateneo would not look back from there all the way to their 10th win in as many games.
Still well ahead of the pack, they are the first team to clinch a playoff berth. “We are happy to be in this position, but we also remain focused on what’s ahead,” Arespacochaga said.
Matt Nieto and Raffy Verano made sure of that as each scored 14 points. Thirdy Ravena had for himself an off-game, for his standards, only with six points and six rebounds.
Of course, the all-around forward didn’t have to do much heavy lifting as, in all, the Blue Eagles suffocated their opponents into only nine points in the last 10 minutes while scoring 23 points of their own.
Also, they are four wins away from a sweep of the elimination round and an automatic advance into the Finals.
With three of their last four assignments coming against teams at the bottom half of the standings, that is very much a possibility. Still, Arespacochaga shared that their sights are not set on that by saying, “It’s a possibility, but we’re just taking it game by game.”
For the Tamaraws, Ron Dennison topped the scoring column with 12 points on top of eight rebounds.
They ran out of gas in the endgame, however, and drop to 5-5 in the standings. They are still at solo fourth, but have 4-5 University of the Philippines and 3-6 University of Sto. Tomas breathing down their necks.
ATENEO 70 – Nieto Ma 14, Verano 14, Tolentino 7, Ravena 6, Black 6, Asistio 6, Ikeh 5, Go 5, Nieto Mi 4, Mamuyac 3, Mendoza 0, Tio 0, Andrade 0
FEU 59 – Dennison 12, Tolentino 11, Cani 10, Parker 7, Orizu 6, Escoto 5, Ebona 4, Inigo 4, Comboy 0, Tuffin 0, Ramirez 0, Stockton 0
QUARTER SCORES: 12-21, 27-34, 47-50, 70-59
This story was originally published on the ABS-CBN Sports website.