Ateneo's Chris Newsome (L) attempts a shot against UP's Angelo Vito (R). Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) The Ateneo Blue Eagles squandered a double-digit advantage in the second half and barely escaped with a 70-69 victory over the upset-minded University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum.
UP guard Mikee Reyes went from hero to zero in the game as he missed two free throws with eight-tenths of a second remaining, after having kept the Fighting Maroons in the game in the fourth quarter.
Reyes scored 15 of his 19 points in the final canto to help UP recover from a 13-point third-quarter deficit, and his three-pointer with 1:54 to go in the game allowed the Maroons to cut the lead to just one point, 69-70.
Both teams squandered chances in their next possessions, with Ateneo rookie Arvin Tolentino getting called for an offensive foul, only to see UP rookie Diego Dario misfire on a short jumper on the other end.
It seemed as though Ateneo would be able to ice the game from the free throw line, but Kiefer Ravena shockingly missed two free throws, giving UP a chance to win their first game over the Blue Eagles in five years.
Reyes was able to fish for a foul against Ateneo's Chris Newsome with 0.8 left, much to the disgust of the Ateneo crowd. Their disgust turned to cheers, however, when Reyes misfired on his first free throw, and then, after a lengthy break to determine the correct time on the game clock, also bricked his second charity.
"I don't know how to phrase this," Ateneo head coach Bo Perasol said after the game, "but I'm not happy with how we won."
"I've spoken about how UP had improved a lot in the second round, and the fact is, a lot of us were thinking that we can just coast against UP. That's why we didn't expect that they will come back against us," he admitted.
Playoff for Final 4
With the win, Ateneo improved their record to 9-3 and sealed at least a playoff for a spot in the Final Four. UP, meanwhile dropped to 1-11. They have not beaten Ateneo since Season 72, when they shocked the then-Rabeh Al-Hussaini-led Blue Eagles in the first round, 68-58.
Ravena finished the game with 18 points, five rebounds and seven assists, and Nico Elorde added 12 markers and seven boards. Every Blue Eagle was able to register at least three minutes of playing time.
Meanwhile, Reyes finished with 19 points for the Maroons, while JR Gallarza added 18 points, 14 of which came in the third quarter to help UP erase a 13-point deficit.
The Blue Eagles seemd to finally shake off the pesky Maroons when they led, 44-31, in the third period, thanks in part to G-Boy Babilonia, who came off the bench to score eight points in the frame.
After a 5-0 run from Gallarza and Dario cut the deficit to single digits, Ravena scored on back-to-back baskets to make it a 12-point game anew, 48-36.
Ateneo had an eight-point lead entering the final quarter, but Reyes, determined to give his team its second win of the season, kicked off an 11-3 run that tied the game at 59-all with still over six minutes to go.
Buckets from Ravena and rookie Clint Doliguez kept Ateneo ahead, with Doliguez's lay-up with 2:31 to go giving the Blue Eagles a 70-64 lead. It turned out to be the last time that Atene would score, however.
"They defended really well," Perasol said of UP. "We were not able to score when it mattered, and we missed free throws in the end."
At the end of the day, it was still a win for the Blue Eagles, however, and it allowed them to remain within striking distance of the league-leading FEU Tamaraws.
"I'm glad that we were able to get this win, because as I emphasized to them, it's not just about a win against UP, but to keep us even with those teams that are going to win today and the playing days to come," said Perasol.
Poor shooting in second quarter
UP kept in step with Ateneo in the first quarter thanks to Dave Moralde, who scored 11 of the Maroons' 18 points, including a four-point play. Only late free throws by Von Pessumal allowed the Blue Eagles to hold a 19-18 lead after the opening frame.
The Maroons took a 20-16 lead early in the second period after UP rookieDario scored five straight points, including a booming triple with 8:33 to go.
Ateneo, as a team, went cold and made only one of 12 field goals in the second period, but still entered halftime with a 29-24 lead as they made 11 of their 14 free throws in the frame.
Ateneo defeated UP in their first game of the season, 86-75, last July 23 behind a career-high performance from Arvin Tolentino, who had 20 points and eight boards.
ADMU 70 - K. Ravena 18, Elorde 12, A. Tolentino 8, Babilonia 8, T. Ravena 8, Newsome 4, Pessumal 4, Doliguez 4, Javelosa 2, Porter 2, Capacio 0, V. Tolentino 0, Asistio 0, Apacible 0, Gotladera 0, Lim 0.
UP 69 - Reyes 19, Gallarza 18, Dario 13, Moralde 11, vito 2, Lao 2, Asilum 2, Juruen 2, Gingerich 0, Harris 0, Bederi 0.
Quarter-scoring: 16-15, 29-24, 56-49, 70-69