Ateneo De Manila University survived Far Eastern University (FEU) in overtime, 69-68, to clinch the last finals berth in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 79 men’s basketball tournament at the Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday.
The Blue Eagles kept their composure in the extra five minutes behind the huge performance of Isaac Go to book another finals battle against archrival De La Salle University.
Thirdy Ravena posted 13 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks, while guard Mike Nieto scored six of his 13 points in the last canto to lead Ateneo.
Despite a nosebleed, Go continued playing, posting 10 of his 12 in the first half plus 14 rebounds and two blocks. His shot gave the Blue Eagles a 69-68 lead with still 1:20 left in the game.
“It was painful but I need to stay on the floor,” said Go, referring to his bloody nose caused by Prince Orizu’s elbow during a battle for the ball. “It’s winning time and the game was on the line so I have to play.”
Ateneo, then, employed tight defense to prevent FEU from scoring.
FEU’s Ron Dennison, who contributed eight points and eight rebounds, fired a short jumper too late for the final buzzer.
Ateneo and La Salle will clash in the finals for the fifth time since 2008. The best-of-three championship round begins on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
“Shot went down. I don’t think you can’t separate these two teams with sledge hammer and crowbar,” Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin told reporters during the postgame interview. “We were that close and I think we just made the last shot.”
“They made the last shot too but it was half a second too late. Two teams that played a lot of pride and determination. My heart goes out to coach Nash (Racela),” he added. “He is an outstanding coach. All my congratulations to the Tamaraws for the tremendous talents they have this season.”
The Tamaraws, who almost nullified the Blue Eagles’ twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four, failed in eight important free throws in the second half that could have earned them a substantial lead.
Manuel Tolentino posted nine points while Adrian Wong had eight also for the Blue Eagles.
The Tamaraws were ahead in the first (20-15) and second (41-38) quarters but the Blue Eagles took the third period (53-49). Dennis forced an overtime after tying the count to 66-all with 37 seconds left in regulation.
Forward Monbert Arong scored 15 points and seven rebounds, while Raymar Jose had 12 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Tamaraws.