As Ateneo claims a Final 4 slot, National U rewrites UAAP history | Inquirer Sports
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As Ateneo claims a Final 4 slot, National U rewrites UAAP history

Photo by Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.net

National University answered history’s call Saturday afternoon, the same day that Ateneo made its entry to the Final Four official.

The Lady Bulldogs whipped the University of Santo Tomas Tigresses, 96-57, in the UAAP women’s basketball tournament at Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan to notch their 74th straight victory—the longest winning streak in any sport in the league.

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And the first thing coach Pat Aquino did was heave a relaxed sigh.

“[Making history] hasn’t sunk in yet,” Aquino told the Inquirer. “It’s really more a relief right now that we’re done chasing the record. We can now focus on the more important thing, which is winning a title.”

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Once the record formerly owned by Adamson’s women’s softball team was within sight, Aquino admitted that it seemed the burden had doubled for NU every time it took the court.

“You have to worry about the winning and then at the back of your mind, there is the streak,” said Aquino, who banned any locker room talk of the record chase to keep the Lady Bulldogs’ focus on the game at hand. “I know they read about it and they’re aware, but I told the players not to talk about it.”

Aquino passed the credit of the streak to NU management, which took care of recruiting players who “stayed together like family and performed really well on the court.”

Ria Nabalan shouldered the scoring duties for the Lady Bulldogs, notching 31 points as NU used a strong second period to knock the fight out of UST.

Kaye Pingol added 20 points while reigning MVP Jack Danielle Animam and Congo’s Rhena Itesi each scored 15 for NU, which improved to 10-0 this season.

At nearby Smart Araneta Coliseum, Ateneo stared at a similar 10-0 figure on the scoreboard. The Blue Eagles opened the game with 10 straight points before beating National U, 79-64, in the men’s tournament.

The Blue Eagles officially tabbed a Final Four slot—although no one really expected them to have to fight for a berth in the semifinals—with the victory while putting the Bulldogs’ own bid in peril.

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Ateneo’s ninth win in 11 outings was NU’s seventh loss in 10 games.

Not that the Ateneo coaching staff was keeping count.

“We didn’t look into the Final Four and we were just focusing on NU,” said assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga. “We didn’t look beyond this game and that was the key point for us.”

The Blue Eagles went on a blistering 22-9 run in the second quarter to take a 44-20 lead after Thirdy Ravena’s free throw.

De La Salle tightened its hold of the third spot after fending off Far Eastern University, 65-57, later in the day.

The Archers climbed to a 6-4 record while the Tamaraws, who slipped to a 5-6 record, dropped to fifth, allowing idle University of the Philippines (5-5) to gain fourth place.

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TAGS: Ateneo Blue Eagles, De La Salle University, Far Eastern University, FEU, Final Four, National University, UAAP, UAAP Season 81 men’s basketball tournament
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