Ateneo De Manila University sent De La Salle University crashing back to earth with an 83-71 victory and bagged a Final Four slot in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 79 men’s basketball tournament on Saturday at the Araneta Coliseum.
Aaron Black, the son of former Ateneo coach and now Meralco coach Norman Black, tallied 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting in the field plus seven rebounds, while Matthew Nieto racked up 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting in the field and John Wong had 11 points to lead the Blue Eagles.
“I got a lot of feeds from my teammates every time I’m open,” said Black, who returned from a foot injury after missing five games. “Everybody stepped up and followed the game plan great win but we’re not satisfied we want to chase the No. 2 spot.”
George Go contributed 10 points and seven rebounds also for the Blue Eagles, who now improve to 7-4 win-loss record.
“Despite this win, La Salle is still the No. 1 team and they are tough to beat. Thank God we’ve won this game,” said Ateneo coach Sandy Arespacochaga during the post game interview. “Our guards helped out our big men. It’s a great teamwork.”
The Blue Eagles opened the game on a spectacular note with Asistio, Wong and Black hitting big baskets to post a 23-16 cushion at the end of first quarter. They built a 44-36 advantage at halftime after sustaining their fast-paced game and leech-like defense in the second quarter.
The Blue Eagles maintained their defense in the second half, disallowing the Green Archers to get back.
Despite the loss, the Green Archers remained at No. 1 spot with 12-1 win-loss record. Jeron Teng led La Salle with 18 points while Ben Mbala had 17 points and 15 rebounds.
In the first game, National University (NU) ended a six-game losing streak by crushing University of the East (UE) in the fourth quarter on the way to a 64-52 victory behind forward Matt Salem’s spectacular performance.
Salem, a transferee from La Salle, scattered 11 of his 20 points in the pivotal payoff frame to go along with six triples and six rebounds and two assists while Cameroonian 6’7 Alfred Aroga made 11 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Bulldogs.
“I thought we played good defense especially in the fourth quarter. We were able to assert ourselves in making stops,” NU coach Eric Altamirano told reporters during the post game interview. “It’s been a very long dry spell for us.
Manuel Masqueda added 11 points, while Jay-Jay Alejandro contributed 10 points along with seven rebounds and six assists plus three steals also for the Bulldogs.
“We don’t know the significance of this game, but it put us back in our winning ways.”
The Bulldogs now improve to 5-8 win-loss record but remain behind the fourth placer Adamson University Falcons, who are sporting a 5-5 win-loss record. The Red Warriors, on the other hand, are already eliminated with 2-10 win-loss record.
After trailing by a short deficit in the first quarter (9-12), the Bulldogs fought back in the second quarter and forged a 32-all deadlock at the half. The Red Warriors regained a one-point lead at the end of third quarter, 45-44, but couldn’t hang on with their advantage.
Salem powered NU’s fourth quarter 20-point output by pouring in 11 points. NU’s defense also held off UE to only seven in the fourth canto. Prior to this victory, the Bulldogs’ last triumph came from the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons last October 1.
Only Alvin Pasaol was the only Red Warriors who scored in double figures with 10 points.
NU shot accurately than UE overall in the field (37.5%-28.5). The Bulldogs also tallied more assists (16-12), three-pointers (7-4) and rebounds (49-47) than the Red Warriors.