Ateneo, NU forge title showdown in UAAP juniors
MANILA, Philippines – The Ateneo Blue Eaglets rallied past the Far Eastern University (FEU) Baby Tamaraws, 69-64, in their stepladder semi-finals showdown Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
FEU, the defending champions in the juniors division, led 59-55 with less than five minutes to go, but the Blue Eaglets ended the game on a 14-5 scoring run to claim the victory.
Ateneo will now advance to the Finals against the unbeaten National University (NU) Bullpups, who have a thrice-to-beat advantage in the championship after sweeping the elimination round.
The Blue Eaglets seized control of the game when Jose Escaler completed a three-point play off an assist from Matthew Nieto with just 2:11 to go to make it 62-59. Escaler then drilled a dagger triple with 1:38 to go to make it 65-59.
“Escaler came to play,” Ateneo juniors coach Joe Silva told UAAP Sports TV. “He was the one that started it. In the first half, no one was listening to the coaches. Everyone was playing ‘hero basketball.’ It was Escaler who started following directions. He brought us to the victory.”
Mike Nieto had a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds, and juniors MVP Thirdy Ravena added 11 markers.
The Blue Eaglets are returning to the Finals for the first time since Season 73, when the Kiefer Ravena-led team notched their third consecutive championship.
Silva acknowledged that it will be “really tough” to win three games against the Bullpups, who defeated the Blue Eaglets in overtime in their last game of the elimination round.
“If there’s any team that can do it, I believe my boys can,” Silva said.
JJ Domingo finished with 15 points for FEU, including the triple that allowed them to take a 59-55 lead.
ADMU 69 – Nieto Mi. 14, Escaler 14, Ravena 11, Black 10, Nieto Ma. 9, Mendoza 7, Ramos 2, Magpoc 2, Salandanan 0, Joson 0, Calilung 0
FEU 64 – Lee 19, Doming JJ. 15, Bienes 9, Completo 5, Aquino 5, Tabudlo 4, limba 4, Comboy 3, Rumabao 0, Paglinawan 0, Domingo Js. 0
Quarter-scores: 9-17, 32-32, 47-46, 69-64