Ateneo eliminates FEU, faces La Salle anew in UAAP finals

MANILA, Philippines – The Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) Blue Eagles lived up to its 13-1 season record and top dog status as it ended Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws’ season, 88-84 on Wednesday, November 22 at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Matt Nieto saved Ateneo from a near elimination vs FEU
Matt Nieto saved Ateneo from a near elimination vs FEU. Photo Credit:

While the Archers wait for their opponent at the UAAP Finals for more than a week now, the Eagles and the Tamaraws’ backs were both against the wall and had no tomorrow to spare. One school will surely move on and one will definitely go home.

A 3-day off was enough for both squads to prepare and study each other’s game plan. True to this, the do-or-die game was too close to call and was defense-focused that resulted to a low-scoring, 23-21 1st quarter in favor of Ateneo.

Chibueze Ikeh, who was the missing link in the previous game, looked remorseful as he started the 2nd period with already 5 points. Tamaraw JR Parker on the other hand, didn’t want to let go of his team’s momentum and kept the score tight through his outside sniping skills.

During game 1, Ateneo seemed too tired and out gassed out even in the early phase of the game. But in this game, ADMU showed up well-prepared and determined to finish this game off and face its biggest rival; La Salle for a rematch of last season’s UAAP finals.

Tyler Tio and Aaron Black both hit three pointers before the 2nd period ended but it was ADMU’s big man, Isaac Go who finished the 1st half with a triple of his own that gave his team a decent 40-33 lead.

FEU started the third with 7-0 run to tie the game until Thirdy Ravena ended the Eagles’ scoring drought with an acrobatic layup to regain the lead.

Tamaraw star forward Alvin Tolentino, who spent majority of the 1st half due to foul trouble checked back in the game midway of the 3rd quarter to reinforce FEU as Ateneo slowly bumped-up its lead.

The score got tuck at 51-47 for over 4 minutes. It was ADMU’s Jolo Mendoza who moved the scoreboard from the outside. FEU followed the scoring suit and wrapped-up the third in a good note. Ateneo however still led the game, 57-53.

Far Eastern U tasted the 1st lead of game 59-57 as they started the 4th and final quarter. Center Prince Orizu led the way with offensive boards and put-backs to even widened the margin, 65-59 with 7 more minutes remaining in the ballgame.

Downed by 8, Rookie Eagle Gian Mamuyac stepped-up and leveled the game at 69-all to keep his team’s hope alive.

Thirdy Ravena reclaimed the lead from FEU with a fast break layup. A basket which Ateneo needed the most. The Eagles had a slim 1-point, 72-71 advantage with 33 second remaining.

JR Parker scored a well-contested layup as the lead swung to the Tamaraw’s side, 73-72. The Eagles however, had 1 full shot clock to win the game.

Matt Nieto took the shot too early and missed big time. FEU got the rebound and had 16 seconds in their possession. JR Parker got fouled after the inbound and completed his charities for 75-72 lead.

Coach Tab Baldwin drew a play fit for 14 seconds that will decide his team’s fate as he burned his last and final timeout. Baldwin’s unconventional play miraculously paid off as his big man, Isaac Go hit a trey and tied the game.

It was Coach Olsen Racela’s turn to make a play with 8 ticks remaining in the game clock that could send FEU to the Finals or extend game number 2 into an overtime. Arvin Tolentino took the ball for the last shot but unfortunately, the ball slipped off his hands and confirmed the game extension.

Both squads traded baskets like there’s no tomorrow as they unfolded the overtime. At the 2-minute warning, the game is tied at 80-all.

Matt Nieto broke the deadlock with floater in the middle followed by cold-blooded three pointer for the 85-80 advantage and 46 seconds left in the extra period.

JR Parker who was waxing hot in the first 4 quarters instantly gone called in the O.T. and officially gave the last finals seat to Ateneo 88-84.

The UAAP Finals: Ateneo De Manila University vs. De La Salle University series will start on Saturday at 4 pm at Mall of Asia Arena.

— Joey Boy Capos, The Summit Express

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