UAAP: Ateneo fends off Adamson to secure No. 1 seed

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 30 2022 06:34 PM | Updated as of Nov 30 2022 10:58 PM

Kai Ballungay had a double-double in Ateneo's win over Adamson. UAAP Media.
Kai Ballungay had a double-double in Ateneo's win over Adamson. UAAP Media.

MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) Ateneo de Manila University will be the No. 1 seed in the Final 4 of UAAP Season 85, after the Blue Eagles held off Adamson University, 66-61 on Wednesday evening at the Araneta Coliseum.

The Blue Eagles saw a 15-point lead dwindle to one point late, but a big bucket by Ange Kouame and clutch free throws from BJ Andrade preserved the victory for the Katipunan cagers. 

Ateneo thus finished the elimination round with an 11-3 record -- tied with defending champion University of the Philippines (UP). However, the Blue Eagles had a bigger winning margin over UP in their second round encounter, allowing them to clinch the top seed for the fifth consecutive season.

UP will settle for the second seed and a date with No. 3 National University (9-5) in the Final 4, where they will have a twice-to-beat advantage. 

With the loss, Adamson concludes the elimination round with a 7-7 win-loss slate. They will play De La Salle University (7-7) in a knockout game for the last Final 4 berth.

"It's the Final 4 already and we can't get too caught up in the we're No. 1. We all know that entering the Final 4, it's a whole new ball game," said Ateneo assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga. "We're gonna make sure that we don't relax or let our guard down. We're gonna be ready whoever wins between Admson and La Salle." 

Kai Ballungay shone for Ateneo with an 18-point, 14-rebound double-double. Andrade had 13 points, while Kouame finished with 12 points, 12 rebounds, and three blocks. 

The Blue Eagles led wire-to-wire and had a 46-31 advantage with 4:30 to play in the third quarter, courtesy of back-to-back triples from Ballungay. 

But the Falcons roared their way back in the game, thanks to AP Manlapaz, who had his breakout game for Adamson. Manlapaz scored 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting, and hit a layup with 2:43 left that made it a five-point game, 62-57. They got as close as one point, 62-61, off a Cedrick Manzano layup with still 1:43 to play. 

The Soaring Falcons fumbled their opportunities to take the lead, with Jerom Lastimosa bricking a three-pointer with 61 seconds left. Kouame proceeded to push their lead to three points, 64-61, after grabbing an offensive rebound and scoring a putback with 35 seconds to go.

Kouame was also fouled by Manzano on the play, but the naturalized center missed the bonus free throw, keeping the door open for the Falcons. Unfortunately for Adamson, Joaquin Jaymalin and Joem Sabandal misfired on their three-pointers, leading to Andrade's game-clinching free throws. 

Lastimosa finished with 10 points and eight rebounds in 28 minutes. The Soaring Falcons lost center Lenda Douanga with 7:47 left in the third quarter, after spraining his right ankle. 

Adamson will now turn its attention to their knockout game against La Salle on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena. 

The scores:

ATENEO 66 -- Ballungay 18, Andrade 13, Kouame 12, Koon 7, Padrigao 6, Ildefonso 3, Gomez 3, Chiu 2, Lazaro 2, Garcia 0, Quitevis 0, Daves 0.

ADAMSON 61 -- Manlapaz 22, Lastimosa 10, Douanga 7, Hanapi 5, Flowers 5, Manzano 4, Yerro 4, Sabandal 2, V. Magbuhos 2, Colonia 0, Jaymalin 0, Barasi 0, Fuentebella 0, Barcelona 0, Torres 0, W. Magbuhos 0.

Quarters: 17-16, 33-27, 49-41, 66-61.

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