NATIONAL University (NU) won over Ateneo De Manila, 78-74, on Wednesday to stay alive in Final Four of University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 77 men’s basketball at the Araneta Coliseum. The Bulldogs will fight the Blue Eagles anew in a sudden-death game to enter the finals.
Jay-Jay Alejandro scored 20 points on a 6-of-7 shooting in the field plus four assists, playmaker Gelo Alolino had 16 points, Glenn Khobuntin 12 points while Alfred Aroga contributed 11 points and 13 rebounds for the Bulldogs.
“We only wanted to play our best in this game and we’re happy we were able to force a knockout game for the finals spot,” said NU coach Eric Altamirano.
NU established a 24-14 lead in the first quarter through Khobuntin’s eight points. The Bulldogs kept their onslaught in the second quarter stretching the lead to 36-21, with six-minutes left before the halftime break.
Alejandro and Jess Diputado posted two triples and one triple, respectively during the impressive run.
Ateneo trimmed down the gap to 37-30, but NU smothered the Blue Eagles’ charge by unleashing a 7-2 attack that included a basket from Aroga that kept a double-digit advantage, 44-32, at halftime.
The Bulldogs, who shot 17-of-25 overall in the field in first half compared to the Blue Eagles’ 12-of-37, maintained their lead at the end of third frame, 60-50.
NU further stretched its advantage to 68-53 in the first two minutes of fourth period but slowed down because Khobuntin and Aroga rested on the sideline because of foul troubles.
The Blue Eagles then exploited the Bulldogs’ fourth quarter slackness with a dazzling run behind the three-point shot of Kiefer Ravena and Chris Newsome’s three-point play that narrowed the gap to t 69-70 with only 1:37 left.
Ravena, who had 24 points on a dismal 9-of-35 shooting in the field, missed a potential game-tying three-point shot in the waning seconds.
NU’s Alolino and Joel Betayane scored two free throws each to seal the victory.