Ateneo clobbers UP, clinches UAAP finals berth after sweep
MANILA, Philippines–Relentless right from the get-go, Ateneo completed the first elimination-round sweep in 12 years—and clinched the first finals berth—after crushing University of the Philippines, 86-64, Wednesday in UAAP Season 82 at Mall of Asia.
The Blue Eagles methodically pulled away from a tight contest early in the second period, where they went on a 19-2 blitz that turned a 24-25 deficit into a 43-27 advantage with 1:18 remaining in the first half.
Ivoerian center Ange Kouame proved to be a pillar of strength inside the paint, pumping in 20 points and grabbing 12 rebounds, while sophomore SJ Belangel finished with 14 points.
Belangel did most of the damage in the second period, where he scored nine of his output, to allow the Eagles to seize control.
With their 14th victory, the Eagles matched the feat of the 2007 University of the East team that also swept the elimination-phase.
But Ateneo will be looking to cap the season with a third straight title unlike that UE team that got swept in the finals by La Salle.
Ateneo’s dominant season so far has seen the Eagles win by an average margin of 17.4 points.
The Fighting Maroons finished the elimination-phase with a 9-5 record. They would still have gone into the Final Four with a twice-to-beat advantage regardless of the outcome of the match against the Eagles.
With Ateneo’s sweep, the Final Four will now go into a stepladder semifinals with Far Eastern U and University of Santo Tomas disputing the right to face second seed UP, which will carry a twice-to-beat advantage.
The FEU-UST tiff is set on Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum. Should the stepladder semifinals go the full route, the best-of-three finals will begin on Nov. 16.
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