ATENEO leaned on another strong start to clinch its fifth consecutive Final Four appearance while La Salle seized solo third place yesterday in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Blue Eagles remained perfect in the second round following a 79-64 dismantling of National University, while the Green Archers’ big men imposed their will in a 65-57 win over Far Eastern University, sending the Tamaraws’ reeling to a third straight defeat.
With a 9-2 card, back-to-back title-seeking Ateneo, which has an average winning margin of 18 points in the second round, opened a one-game cushion over Adamson (7-2) for the league’s best record.
La Salle rose to 6-4, now ahead by one-and-a-half game over FEU (5-6) in the race for the last Final Four slot, and it allowed idle University of the Philippines (5-5) to get inside the top four range.
Ivorian Ange Kouame registered his sixth double-double with 19 points and 17 rebounds to go with six blocks as the Eagles extended their winning run to four games.
Ateneo ran out the gates early, racing to a 10-0 lead and built a comfortable 47-25 advantage at the break, as Kouame reached double-double in the first half for the second straight game.
The Bulldogs tried to make a third quarter run, but the Eagles’ huge first half buffer was too much to overcome.
“Having a strong start means a lot, because every time you get a cushion, especially teams like NU, they will not just roll over and die. They will gonna keep on fighting,” said Ateneo assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga.
“When they made their run, it was good that we had that cushion. The key for us is making runs of our own and stopping our opponents from making their runs. Imagine that we didn’t have a good start and we don’t have that cushion going to the third, that’s going to be difficult for us,” he added.
Ateneo (79) – Ravena 23, Kouame 19, Belangel 11, Verano 7, Go 7, Tio 3, Black 3, Mendoza 2, Mamuyac 2, Daves 2, Asistio 0, Wong 0, Navarro 0, Andrade 0.
NU (64) – Clemente 25, Ildefonso D. 13, Ildefonso S. 7, Diputado 5, Yu 5, Gaye 4, Joson 3, Rike 2, Gallego 0, Sinclair 0, Galinato 0, Morido 0, Malonzo 0.
Quarterscores: 22-11, 47-25, 65-47, 79-64
DLSU (65) – Baltazar 15, Santillan 12, Melecio 7, Montalbo 7, Caracut 7, Bates 7, Dyke 5, Serrano 5, Go 0, Manuel 0.
FEU (57) – Tolentino 20, Parker 6, Stockton 6, Escoto 5, Iñigo 5, Ramirez 5, Cani 4, Comboy 3, Eboña 3, Bienes 0, Tuffin 0.
Quarterscores: 14-13, 34-34, 48-47, 65-57