REIGNING champion Ateneo de Manila University banked on its experience to boot out University of the East (UE), 80-74, for a spot in the Final Four of University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 86 Men’s Basketball Tournament on Wednesday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The Blue Eagles secured their third straight win to rise to 7-6, strengthening their hold of the fourth spot and forcing at least a playoff for the last semifinal slot.
Despite the win, coach Tab Baldwin was a little bit disappointed with the way their players performed against the Red Warriors.
“I though we looked a little bit disinterested today. There was no excuse for that. It’s disappointing turning the ball over as much as we did and not be more dominant in the rebounding when they’re missing Precious Momowei and we had a significant size disadvantage,” Baldwin said.
After Kai Ballungay’s triple that pushed the Blue Eagles lead to 70-55 with 7:31 left in the game, the Red Warriors behind Noy Remogat, Ethan Galang, Allen Maglupay, and Wello Lingolingo, fought back and inched within 68-72 with 2:15 remaining.
Sean Quitevis and Mason Amos answered back for Ateneo with a single free throw and a basket to put them in 75-68 cushion to restore order with 50 seconds to go.
Galang’s three-pointer with 19.8 seconds pulled UE to just five, 71-76, before Jared Brown split his freebies to put Ateneo ahead by six with 18.2 seconds on the clock, 77-71.
But after a timeout, Galang turned the ball over as he stepped out of bounds, followed by Brown’s two free throws on the other end.
“I just feel like we weren’t as locked in and personally, I made some turnovers that I made because I wasn’t locked in and that’s what killed us,” Brown said on their fourth frame performance, where they were outscored, 26-18.
Brown fired 21 points on six threes.
Ballungay added 15 points, five assists, and four rebounds, while Joseph Obasa scored 13, grabbed 11 rebounds, and recorded two blocks.
Meanwhile, Adamson University defeated National University, 68-62, to stay in the hunt for a final four spot.
The Red Warriors dropped to a 4-9 record to miss the playoffs for the 14th straight year. This was their third consecutive defeat as well.
Remogat led UE anew with 22 points to go with seven assists, five rebounds, and three steals while Lingolingo chipped in 14 points.
Galang and Sawat contributed 12 points apiece but the latter struggled from the field, going just 3-of-17.
Precious Momowei, the 6-foot-9 Nigerian center of UE, was suspended for this game after committing his second unsportsmanlike foul of the season last Sunday against De La Salle University.
Ateneo will finish the elimination round against rival De La Salle University on Saturday at the SMART Araneta Coliseum, while UE will end its run against Adamson on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.