MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) Camille Clarin waxed hot from long range as the National University (NU) Lady Bulldogs pulled away for an 83-64 victory over Ateneo de Manila University in their UAAP Season 85 women's Final 4 game, Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum.
The victory propelled the Lady Bulldogs to an eighth consecutive finals appearance, where they are seeking a seventh straight women's basketball championship.
NU took a longer route to the finals this season, as their loss to De La Salle University in the second round ensured a traditional Final 4 in the women's tournament for the first time since Season 76. After advancing to the championship outright for six straight seasons, the Lady Bulldogs played a semis game for the first time since 2013.
Gilas Women's standout Clarin starred for NU with 19 points, making five of her 11 attempts from beyond the arc. She also had three rebounds, three assists and a steal in a 33-minute stint. Mikka Cacho had 15 points, and Annick Tiky contributed 10 points and six rebounds.
"We came into this game with the mindset of doing the right things from the start to the finish," said NU coach Aris Dimaunahan, who steered the Lady Bulldogs to the finals in his first season in charge. "I have to give credit to our ladies for putting in the work kahit naiskoran kami."
"Hindi sila bumitaw and they just kept on fighting, they just stayed together to get this win," he added.
Ateneo stayed within striking distance in the first half, thanks to the efforts of rookie center Kacey dela Rosa, who had a double-double of 18 points and 14 rebounds at the break. They got within six points, 54-48, off two free throws by LJ Miranda with still 6:04 left in the third quarter.
But the Lady Bulldogs seized control from there, responding with a blistering 17-2 run bridging the third and fourth quarters. The run was capped by a Clarin triple for a 71-50 advantage with 6:55 to play in the game.
Junize Calago knocked down a three-pointer in Ateneo's next possession to finally end their drought, 71-53, but the Blue Eagles could not claw their way out of the deficit.
Dela Rosa finished with 22 points and 18 rebounds on top of seven blocks, with NU limiting her to just one field goal in the second half. Jhazmin Joson finished with 13 points, four assists, four rebounds, and three steals, while Calago had 10 points but was also responsible for eight of their 26 turnovers.
The Lady Bulldogs scored 29 points off Ateneo's turnovers; the Blue Eagles were also undone by their 16-of-30 shooting from the free throw line.
Despite the defeat, Ateneo still took heart from their run in Season 85, as they made the Final 4 for the first time since 2015.
NU (83) - Clarin 19, Cacho 15, Tiky 10, Canuto 8, Cayabyab 8, Pingol 7, Bartolo 7, Fabruada 6, Betanio 3, Surada 0.
Ateneo (64) - Dela Rosa 22, Joson 13, Calago 10, Makanjoula 7, Villacruz 6, Miranda 2, Eufemiano 2, Angala 2, Nieves 0, Fetalvero 0, Perez 0.
Quarter scores: 27-20, 52-39, 62-50, 83-64