Ateneo uses huge fourth quarter spurt to fend off FEU at UAAP 75By Celest R. Flores
MANILA, Philippines — Ateneo gained steam in the payoff period and then fended off a late rally by Far Eastern University, 74-71, Saturday to gain the top spot in the 75th UAAP men’s basketball tournament at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Ateneo shattered the tie in the standings and rose to first place with a 6-1 record while FEU sank to third with a 5-2 record behind University of Santo Tomas (5-1).
“We’re right where we want to be,” said Norman Black of his squad’s first round effort as the Blue Eagles were in a prime position to finish either first or second after the eliminations.
The Blue Eagles came back from 12 points down and snared the lead at the start of the fourth quarter, 56-55, on a 7-2 run highlighted by a power move plus the freebie by Ryan Buenafe and a floater by Nico Salva.
Greg Slaughter led with 17 points and eight boards, while Juami Tiongson — who lit up from downtown and sparked Ateneo’s comeback– added 12 points.
“It was a lot easier when you are making the shots,” said Black, who is in his last season in Ateneo. “We were able to get the ball to the post to Greg Slaughter.”
JP Erram, meanwhile, provided quality service for the Blue Eagles in the final minutes by grabbing crucial boards – nine of them — and scoring four of his six markers.
Ateneo erected a 69-60 edge after clamping down on the Tamaraws and holding them scoreless for at least three and half minutes.
The Tamaraws didn’t go down without fighting, trimming the deficit to a more manageable 66-70, with under a minute left on treys by RR Garcia and Arvie Bringas.
The Blue Eagles initially struggled in defending the combination of RR Garcia and Terrence Romeo in the first half, where the Tamaraws led 35-23.
“We didn’t do a good job of keeping their perimeter players from the paint in the first half,” said Black.
But Romeo generally wasn’t his dominant self and just had 10 points — three in the entire second half — while Garcia soared with 21 points.
FEU’s twin towers – Anthony Hargrove and Bringas – accounted for at least eight of their squad’s fourth quarter points and combined for 22 points and 18 boards.