ATENEO used its stifling defense to eliminate Far Eastern University for the third straight season, 80-61, and book the first Finals berth last night in the UAAP men's basketball Final Four at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Not contented with a 14-point lead at the break, the Blue Eagles, behind the hot hands of Thirdy Ravena, opened the third period with a telling 15-0 run to built a commanding 53-24 advantage, as the Tamaraws went scoreless during that five-minute span.
On course for a back-to-back title run, Ateneo will face the winner of this Wednesday's do-or-die playoff between Adamson and University of the Philippines in the best-of-three championship starting Dec. 1.
The Fighting Maroons dragged the No. 2 Falcons to a Final Four decider with a 73-71 win last Saturday.
In the women's basketball step-ladder semis, Grace Irebu had a monster outing of 28 points, 20 rebounds and three blocks as University of Santo Tomas weathered a late Adamson comeback to carve out a 78-69 win and face No. 2 FEU for the remaining Finals berth.
No Tamaraws player entered in twin digits, as the Blue Eagles were successful in pushing them out of their comfort zone right from the get go.
“We knew that coming into the game we were up against a tough FEU team who just had two great wins against Adamson and La Salle." said Ateneo assistant coach Sandy Arespcochaga.
What made worse for the Tamaraws was they lost guard Alec Stockton at the 7:12 mark of the third period for a punch on Ravena in the face.
The loss ended the collegiate careers of five FEU players led by Arvin Tolentino, the hero of last Wednesday’s 71-70 playoff victory over La Salle.
Ravena came through with 22 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals while Ivorian slotman Ange Kouame had a double-double outing of 18 points and 11 boards to go with four blocks.
Ateneo (80)--Ravena 22, Kouame 18, Verano 7, Nieto Ma. 6, Go 6, Nieto Mi. 5, Belangel 4, Mamuyac 3, Asistio 3, Mendoza 3, Black 2, Tio 1, Wong 0, Navarro 0, Daves 0, Andrade 0.
FEU (61)-- Eboña 9, Orizu 7, Ramirez 7, Gonzales 6, Iñigo 5, Tolentino 5, Stockton 5, Tuffin 4, Parker 4, Escoto 4, Comboy 3, Cani 2, Bienes 0, Bayquin 0, Jopia 0, Nunag 0.Quarterscores: 17-9, 38-24, 59-36, 80-61