ADAMSON made a return trip to the Final Four after a five-year absence, while Ateneo tied defending champion Far Eastern University in second place yesterday in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Falcons overcame a sluggish first half to beat already eliminated University of Santo Tomas, 76-61, and clinch the remaining Final Four berth.
The upstart Blue Eagles started hot before fending off a late Tamaraws charge to carve out a 74-59 victory and keep the race for the second twice-to-beat slot in the Final Four hanging in the balance.
Ateneo chalked up its fourth straight victory and eighth overall in 12 matches to join FEU in second spot, a full game ahead of Adamson, which has now a 7-5 card in fourth.
The Falcons broke away from a 37-32 lead at the break and not even the entry of the Growling Tigers’ usual starters Louie Vigil, Marvin Lee and Renzo Subido could save the España-based dribblers from absorbing their 10th loss in 13 matches.
“I think right now, we are living a dream. We surprised a lot of basketball fanatics. We were able to fast track everything,” said Franz Pumaren, a five-time UAAP champion coach who took over Adamson in the off-season.
“This is the hardest game for us. It’s so hard to play a team with no pressure at all,” he added.
Adamson’s win extinguished National University and University of the Philippines’ bid to enter the Final Four via the backdoor.
After the Tamaraws were able to overhaul a 32-55 deficit to 56-63, Thirdy Ravena and Isaac Go scored the Eagles’ last 10 points in the final 2:53 to seal the deal.
Coming off a huge 83-71 victory against erstwhile unbeaten La Salle, Ateneo coach Sandy Arespacochaga was satisfied that his troops were able to sustain the momentum of that massive upset.
“One of the things we emphasized was we did not want let our thoughts to stay in that game because we are worried that we might have a dip in our focus and energy,” said Arespacochaga. “But I think the players did a great job in staying focused on the task at hand.”
Ravena had a double-double outing of 15 points and 11 rebounds while Go added 14 points and seven boards for the Eagles.
“It was a collective effort, especially on the boards,” said Arespacochaga, as Ateneo won the rebounding over a much-taller FEU side, 51-48.
The Tamaraws, who suffered a narrow 49-51 loss to the Falcons last Sunday, entered the game flat, succumbing to the Eagles’ hot sniping from beyond the arc to trail, 28-46, at the break.
ADMU (74) – Ravena 15, Go 14, Wong 12, Nieto Mi. 8, Black 7, Tolentino 4, Porter 4, Asistio 3, Nieto Ma. 3, Ikeh 2, Mendoza 2, Verano 0, Ildefonso 0.
FEU (59) – Arong 15, Orizu 11, Jose 10, Tuffin 10, Escoto 6, Dennison 3, Comboy 3, Roxas 1, Trinidad 0, Iñigo 0, Bayquin 0, Holmqvist 0, Denila 0, Nunag 0.
Quarterscores: 24-14, 46-28, 58-46, 74-59
AdU (76) – Manalang 16, Ahanmisi 16, Manganti 9, Tungcab 8, Sarr 7, Mustre 7, Ochea 6, Espeleta 4, Bernardo 2, Camacho 1, Paranada 0, Chua 0, Ng 0.
UST (61) – Sheriff 13, Lao 12, Basibas 8, Vigil 6, Macasaet 6, Huang 4, Caunan 4, Afoakwah 3, Arana 3, De Guzman 2, Faundo 0, Lee 0, Subido 0.
Quarterscores: 21-19, 37-32, 56-50, 76-61