Ateneo De Manila University relied on a strong fourth period showing as it repulsed a tenacious University of the Philippines (UP), 96-82, to move one win within an elimination round sweep in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 80 men’s basketball tournament on Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Blue Eagles outscored the Fighting Maroons in the payoff quarter, 33-18, as they posted their 13th win in as many games, just one victory away from sweeping the double-round eliminations, which can book them a return trip to the finals.
But before coming up with a huge endgame performance, the Katipunan-based squad had to overcome a 12-point deficit in the early goings.
“Toward the end of the third and the fourth quarter, our players showed a lot of character. We’re happy with this win and we’re happy that the character of our players showed in this tough game,” said Ateneo assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga.
“Certainly, a lot of fight from UP in this game. They showed their heart. They came up with a high intensity from the very start,” added Arespacochaga.
Ateneo will have a shot at a rare sweep when it takes on defending champion and archrival De La Salle University in the last game of the preliminary round on Sunday.
Matt Nieto paced the Eagles with 19 points, draining seven of those in the final frame, while Isaac Go and Gian Mamuyac both came off the bench to contribute 13 points apiece.
Juan Gomez De Liaño tallied a game-high 21 points on top of six rebounds and three assists while Paul Desiderio added 16 markers for the Maroons.
UP dropped to a 5-8 win-loss record, putting them on the verge of missing the Final Four for three straight decades. JEREMIAH M. SEVILLA
ATENEO (96)– Nieto Ma 19, Go 13, Mamuyac 13, Ravena 10, Tolentino 10, Nieto Mi 9, Verano 8, Ikeh 6, Asistio 4, Mendoza 4, Tio 0, Black 0.
UP (82)– Gomez de Liano Ju 21, Desiderio 16, Manzo 13, Dario 8, Gomez de Liano Ja 7, Lim 4, Ouattara 3, Jaboneta 3, Webb 2, Romero 2, Lao 2, Prado 1, Vito 0, Ricafort 0, Harris 0.
Quarterscores: 22-23; 42-48; 63-64; 96-82