ATENEO banked on a third quarter avalanche and ran away with a 91-76 win against University of the East (UE) to end its first-round campaign with flying colors in the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament yesterday at the Ynares Sports Center in Antipolo City.
Up by just a slim two-point lead at the break, the Blue Eagles unleashed a killer 17-0 blast that spelled the difference in their fifth win in seven matches entering the second round.
Dave Ildefonso tallied 17 markers in only 26 minutes of play while Kai Ballungay (14), Forthsky Padrigao (11) and BJ Andrade (11) provided solid support in Ateneo’s 15-point win after a 76-55 victory over Adamson earlier this week.
“We’re comfortable with where we’re at. Of course, we’d like to have a higher placing but the two games we lost were competitive games,” said coach Tab Baldwin on the tough losses of his wards against rivals University of the Philippines and La Salle.
Reigning champion UP, at 6-1, is currently in front of the airtight race with National U (5-1, pending its last match against Far Eastern U) while La Salle suddenly struggled and fell to a share of fourth place with UE and Adamson at similar 3-4 slates.
Ateneo, the former three-time champion, made sure right to stay in the thick of that pack heading into the crucial second round with a game-changing turnaround in the third period against the pesky UE side.
Ranged against the Red Warriors who just came off a tall stand against the Fighting Maroons, the Blue Eagles found their groove and flipped a narrow 46-44 halftime cushion into a comfortable 63-44 lead that they went on to expand to as big as 22 markers heading home.
Ateneo imposed its will inside with huge advantages on rebounds, 46-33, and points in the paint, 50-26 as both teams shot fairly from the field until the one-sided second half in favor of the Katipunan-based squad.
Kyle Paranada and Harvey Pagsanjan turned in 17 markers apiece while Luis Villegas had 10 for UE, which still stayed in the middle of the Final Four hunt despite the tough defeat.
UE, under the tutelage of coach Jack Santiago, went winless in last season before springing surprises this time including a huge 81-74 win against contender La Salle. — John Bryan Ulanday
ATENEO 91 — Ildefonso 20, Ballungay 14, Padrigao 11, Andrade 11, Kouame 8, Lazaro 6, Garcia 6, Fornilos 4, Gomez 3, Koon 2, Chiu 2, Quitevis 2, Daves 2, Fetalvero 0, Lao 0, Ong 0.
UE 76 — Pagsanjan 17, K. Paranada 17, Villegas 10, Stevens 8, Remogat 7, Payawal 6, Alcantara 5, N. Paranada 4, Sawat 2, Beltran 0, Antiporda 0, Guevarra 0.
Quarterscores: 21-21, 46-44, 65-50, 91-76.