MANILA, Philippines — Camille Clarin waxed hot to lead National University to its eighth straight finals after ousting No. 4 Ateneo, 83-64, in the UAAP Season 85 women’s basketball Final Four on Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
In NU’s first Final Four game since 2013, Clarin rose to the occasion and led a collective effort with 19 points on 5-of-11 from deep on top of three rebounds, three assists, and a steal, while Mikka Cacho scored 13 of her 15 points in the first half to set the pace.
“I’m happy that we’re back. I think it’s a different story this year, but I think I love that that’s the case,” said Clarin. “As we’ve heard, women’s basketball is getting so much better and the fact that we did take a loss means everyone’s rising to the occasion to push women’s basketball forward.”
The Lady Bulldogs, who are eyeing their seventh straight championship, will face the winner of the other Final Four pairing featuring No. 2 La Salle and third seed University of Santo Tomas.
UST, led by MVP frontrunner Eka Soriano and Tacky Tacatac, forced a rubber match for the last championship berth following a wire-to-wire 68-57 win over La Salle. The knockout duel is set on December 7 still at The Big Dome.
Soriano displayed her all-around game with 23 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, and two steals. Tacatac had 17 points, while Joylyn Pangilinan chipped in 11 markers, including a triple that tallied the Tigresses’ biggest lead, 16 points, 53-37, in the final five seconds of the third quarter.
“We pulled through in this knockout game. It’s a twice-to-beat for La Salle. Of course, we have to work harder now that La Salle is going back for the last ride to be in the Finals,” said UST coach Haydee Ong. “I told the girls, the job is not yet over until we beat La Salle twice going into the Finals.”
La Salle leaned on Charmine Torres, who had 16 points, nine rebounds, and four steals. Fina Niantcho Tchuido posted 10 points and 13 boards, while Lee Sario also scored 10 and grabbed 12 rebounds.
The Lady Bulldogs overcame the gallant stand of the Blue Eagles, led by rookie Kacey Dela Rosa delivering 22 points, 18 rebounds, and seven blocks.
“We were playing against a prized rookie in Kacey dela Rosa, she burned us again with 22 points and 18 rebounds,” said NU coach Aris Dimaunahan. “She’s a tough opponent because of her tenacity. I have to give credit to our ladies for putting in the work. They just kept on fighting, they just stayed together to get this win.”
Ateneo came out of the halftime break, erasing a 13-point deficit and trimming it down to six, 54-48, with 6:04 remaining in the third period. But the defending champion restored order, catching fire in the fourth to build a 21-point lead, 71-50, with 6:54 left.
Annick Edimo Tiky was also instrumental with 10 points and six rebounds, while Gypsy Canuto chipped in eight points and 10 assists.
“I want to congratulate the entire Ateneo community, their coaching staff and their whole basketball team for doing a hell of a job this season. They made the Final 4,” said Dimaunahan. “But then again, we came into this game with the mindset of doing the right things from the start to the finish. I thought we were having a hard time.”
Jhazmin Joson also shone for Ateneo with 13 points, four rebounds, four assists, and three steals.
NU 83 – Clarin 19, Cacho 15, Edimo Tiky 10, Canuto 8, Cayabyab 8, Pingol 7, Bartolo 7, Fabruada 6, Betanio 3, Surada 0.
Ateneo 64 – Dela Rosa 22, Joson 13, Calago 10, Makanjuola 7, Villacruz 6, Miranda 2, Eufemiano 2, Angala 2, Nieves 0, Fetalvero 0, Perez 0.
Quarters: 27-20, 52-39, 62-50, 83-64.
UST 68 – Soriano 23, Tacatac 17, Pangilinan 11, Dionisio 7, Santos 3, Villasin 3, Serrano 3, Bron 1, Ambos 0, Araza 0.
La Salle 57 – Torres 16, Niantcho Tchuido 10, Sario 10, Binaohan 7, De La Paz 4, Arciga 4, Jimenez 2, Ahmed 2, Dalisay 2, Espinas 0.
Quarters: 14-12, 38-23, 53-37, 68-57.