THE Ateneo Blue Eagles advanced to the finals of University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 79 men’s basketball after beating the Far Eastern University Tamaraws in overtime, 69-68, yesterday in their Final Four rubber match at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Needing to come out triumphant to set a finals date with rivals and already-qualified De La Salle Green Archers, Ateneo got the better of FEU in their do-or-die on a balanced attack.
The Eagles struggled early, finding themselves trailing behind, 20-15, at the end of the first period.
They, however, would find their wind in the second canto as big man Isaac Go waxed hot to lead his team in a tight back-and-forth before the Tamaraws made a sprint in the closing moments to take hold of a 41-38 edge at the half.
Ateneo would step up its defense in the third period, holding FEU to just seven points, and coupled with its offensive burst, led by Mike Nieto, take the lead, 51-48, end-third quarter.
The two teams started the fourth period gun-slinging, exchanging big shots one after another.
Nieto would hit back-to-back shots to give his team a four-point cushion at the 2:58 mark of the final period.
The graduating duo of Monbert Arong and Raymar Jose though would pull FEU to a tie 62-all with 2:03 left.
Thirdy Ravena put Ateneo two points ahead with a pair of free throws before Arong answered him to tie the score anew at 64-all.
Ravena scored on a looper after for Ateneo to retake the lead only to be countered by Ron Dennison with 38 seconds remaining.
The two teams each had a shot at winning but failed in their respective attempts as regulation time expired.
Ateneo was first to score in the extra period when Vince Tolentino split his charity but FEU’s Dennison would drain a jumper to make the score 68-67.
Go scored for the Eagles to take the lead anew, 69-68, before holding on for the win.
Dennison had a chance to win it for FEU but his heave came seconds too late.
Ravena and Nieto each had 13 points for Ateneo while Go had a double-double of 12 points and 14 rebounds.
“[The last] Shot went down for us. That’s it. The two teams wanted to win but it was our day. My heart goes to Coach Nash [Racela] and the Tamaraws. They were equally deserving to win,” said Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin after their big win.
FEU was paced by Arong with 15 points and Jose with 12 markers and 12 boards.
Game One of the UAAP Finals is on Saturday, Dec. 3.