Ateneo and University of Santo Tomas fought tooth and nail for the UAAP men’s basketball crown last season. This time, though, they’re just fighting for survival.
The Blue Eagles and the Tigers, both hoping to rescue faltering campaigns, dispute the last semifinal berth on the final day of eliminations at 4 p.m. today at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“I think you can’t say the team who wants it more will win, because we both want it,” said Ateneo coach Bo Perasol, who will miss the crucial match to serve a one-game suspension.
“It’s for all the marbles. But I have no doubts about my team. They’ll fight for that Final Four slot with or without me at the helm.”
Eliminated teams University of the East and University of the Philippines try to bow out of the season with a victory in the 2 p.m. opener.
The winner between the Eagles and the Tigers, who are tied at 7-6, will advance to the Final Four versus the National U Bulldogs, who claimed the first twice-to-beat incentive.
Ateneo bested UST, 61-57, in the first round.
Far Eastern University and La Salle will battle in the other semifinal duel after a playoff this Saturday, where they will dispute the No. 2 spot and the second twice-to-beat bonus.
UST had a shot at gaining an edge over Ateneo, but the Tigers absorbed a stinging 64-69 setback against the Archers last Saturday.
“We have to give a better effort against Ateneo,” said UST’s top gunner Jeric Teng. “I think we’re now more composed. We have learned from our mistakes.”
Teng said the five-straight champion Eagles won’t be any less dangerous despite the absence of Perasol, who got slapped with a one-game ban anew for staying on the venue premises during his Sept. 8 suspension.
Assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga then called the shots in the Eagles’ 77-72 triumph over the Warriors.
In juniors action, the fourth-ranked Baby Tamaraws stunned the No. 3 Junior Archers, 65-55, yesterday at Blue Eagle Gym in Loyola Heights to advance to the stepladder semifinals.
JJ Domingo topscored for 18 points for the Baby Tams, who now need to beat the No. 2 Eaglets twice to return to the Finals.
The Bullpups earned an outright title berth and a thrice-to-beat bonus after sweeping the elimination round.