Eagles back in UAAP finals

By Jasmine W. Payo
Philippine Daily Inquirer

GAME THURSDAY (Araneta Coliseum)
3:30 p.m.?UE vs FEU (Knockout for last Finals berth)

MANILA, Philippines - Everything that Ateneo seemed to do right this season was in full display in a dominating game that secured for the Blue Eagles the first UAAP championship berth.

With a solid performance from start to finish, the Eagles pecked the University of Santo Tomas Tigers to submission, 81-64, Sunday and earned a shot at defending their men?s basketball crown at the Araneta Coliseum.

The Eagles recorded a staggering 50.8-percent shooting clip to back up a stifling defense that held the Tigers, this year?s top scoring team, to one of their lowest outputs this season.

?If you talk about the game, it encapsulates our entire season,? said Ateneo coach Norman Black. ?We did go into the game with the attitude that we want to jump on them immediately.?

The Eagles will head into the Finals on an 11-game winning streak against the winner of the other semifinal duel between Far Eastern U and the University of the East.

The Warriors hope to overcome the second-ranked Tamaraws? twice-to-beat advantage in their 3:30 p.m. knockout battle on Thursday also at the Big Dome.

Jai Reyes pumped in nine of his 17 points from beyond the arc to help the Eagles build an early lead, 38-24, in the first half. The veteran guard also picked up eight rebounds and three assists.

Ryan Buenafe, struggling for most of the season since winning the top rookie plum last year, pumped in 15 points, including back-to-back triples at the end of the third quarter that gave the Eagles a 19-point spread, 63-44. He also collected seven rebounds, three assists and a couple of steals.

?Ryan stepped up big time and we told him he has to do that because Nico Salva was out,? said Black. ?Both he and Nico are the offensive options for the second team, but with Nico out he became the number one option and he also played pretty good defense.?

Salva, who averages 7.5 markers and 3.8 boards for the Eagles, served a one-game suspension for punching FEU?s Jens Knuttel.

A low-post bucket by Rabeh Al-Hussaini?who also contributed 14 points and seven boards?and a three-point play by Buenafe gave the Eagles their biggest margin at 23 points, 68-45, early in the fourth period.

Even defensive specialist Nonoy Baclao, who attempted and missed from three-point range only once this season, knocked in a triple in the final two minutes that gave the Eagles a 79-57 edge. He also grabbed six rebounds and had three blocks.

?We just couldn?t shoot, couldn?t execute,? said UST coach Pido Jarencio after the Tigers bowed out of the season with four straight losses.

?I already told them that it?s a blessing that we reached the semifinals. But I guess the pressure caught up with them. I just didn?t see the performance that I expected from the players.?

Newly minted MVP Dylan Ababou, who played his final collegiate game, led the Tigers with 19 points and eight rebounds.

The Tigers, the league?s top scoring team with a 78.8 average, finished with a 27.5-percent shooting performance, the worst in six years since La Salle recorded a 29.3 clip against Ateneo in 2003.

The Eagles also set several Final Four game records including the most number of fastbreak points at 23, the most number of steals at 13 and the highest shooting percentage at 50.8.

Juniors, women?s results
Meanwhile, the La Salle Zobel Junior Archers claimed the first Finals slot following an 86-69 crushing of the FEU Baby Tamaraws in their semifinal duel last Saturday at the FilOil Flying V Arena in San Juan.

Gwyne Capacio, the son of FEU coach Glenn, led the Junior Archers with 32 points and 17 rebounds.

Nico Elorde, the grandson of boxing great Gabriel ?Flash? Elorde, collected 18 points, eight rebounds and nine assists.

The defending champion Blue Eaglets forged a rubber match after downing the Tiger Cubs, 72-66, in the other semifinal duel.

Kiefer Ravena, the son of ex-pro Bong Ravena, had another stellar outing for the Eaglets with 27 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and four steals.

In women?s play, defending champion FEU and Adamson forged a championship showdown after tripping their separate semifinal opponents.

Allana Lim shot a season-best 35 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead the Lady Tamaraws to a 74-71 triumph over the Tigresses, while the Lady Falcons ousted the La Salle Lady Archers, 55-50.

The scores:
ATENEO 81?Reyes 17, Buenafe 15, Al-Hussaini 14, Baclao 13, Salamat 6, Long 6, Chua 6, Sumalinog 2, Austria 2, Monfort 0, Gonzaga 0, Golla 0.

UST 64?Ababou 19, Mirza 14, Teng 10, Bautista 9, Fortuna 7, Afuang 4, Camus 1, Maliksi 0, Aytona 0.
Quarters: 22-16, 40-31, 63-44, 81-64

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