(Mall of Asia Arena)
2 p.m. – UST vs Ateneo
4 p.m. -– FEU vs La Salle
The Ateneo Blue Eagles are playing like a well-oiled machine at the right time after repeating against one of the UAAP’s top teams.
Leaning on three impressive quarters before avoiding a late meltdown, the Blue Eagles frustrated the defending champion Far Eastern University Tamaraws, 74-59, to forge a tie for second place yesterday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
With Thirdy Ravena, Isaac Go and Adrian Wong leading the charge, Ateneo built a 23-point lead in the third quarter before showing great composure amid FEU’s comeback attempt in the payoff to notch its fourth straight victory.
Ateneo forged a tie for second place with FEU, which lost back-to-back games for the first time this season, at 8-4 to make the race for the twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four interesting with three playdates left in the eliminations.
The Blue Eagles also repeated against the Tamaraws, who they defeated in the first round via a 76-71 decision.
Yesterday’s performance was a fitting sequel to Ateneo’s comprehensive 83-71 victory over erstwhile unbeaten La Salle last Saturday, showing that the young team under coach Tab Baldwin and assistant Sandy Arespacochaga can make a serious threat to at least make the finals.
Arespacochaga said the big win over the Green Archers seemed to have kept the Blue Eagles focused ahead of the FEU clash.
“We didn’t want to think too much of that great win against La Salle because we worried that there would be a dip in focus and energy,” said Arespacochaga. “I think our players did a good job focusing on the task at hand. We’re happy and thankful we came up with the win.”
Ateneo took control late in the first quarter, 24-14, when Go scored five and Ravena hit a triple in the 8-0 run.
The Blue Eagles capitalized on the Tamaraws’ struggles from the field and in the foul line all the way in the third that saw Anton Asistio extending the margin to that 58-35 advantage on a three off a Monbert Arong foul with 3:54 remaining.
But FEU gave Ateneo anxious moments in the fourth, pulling to within 63-56 on a Raymar Jose tip-in with 3:16 left.
Ravena, however, doused cold water on the Tamaraws, hitting back-to-back layups to make it 67-56 entering the final two minutes.
Arong finished with 15 points, Prince Orizu had 11 points and 16 rebounds but the Tams struggled anew after losing 61-59 to the Adamson Falcons last Sunday.
ATENEO 74 – Ravena 15, Go 14, Wong 12, Nieto Mi. 8, Black 7, Tolentino 4, Porter 4, Asistio 3, Nieto Ma. 3, Ikeh 2, Mendoza 2, Verano 0, Ildefonso 0.
FEU 59 – Arong 15, Orizu 11, Jose 10, Tuffin 10, Escoto 6, Dennison 3, Comboy 3, Roxas 1, Trinidad 0, Inigo 0, Bayquin 0, Holmqvist 0, Denila 0, Nunag 0.
Quarters: 24-14; 46-28; 58-46; 74-59.