There will be a new champion in the 79th Season of the UAAP Men’s Basketball Tournament.
And waging war for it will be the fiercest rivals in the Philippines.
The Blue Eagles made it happen after getting the better of now-dethroned Far Eastern University in overtime, 69-68, on Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum.
Isaac Go, bloodied nose and all, scored the game-winner on a follow-up of a miss by Matt Nieto. That was Ateneo’s first and only field goal in the extra period, but it proved to be the difference in a game where the two teams traded blows from start to finish.
The biggest lead either squad had was only six points and their matchup featured nine deadlocks and 21 lead changes. “Two really tough defensive teams, two teams that play with a lot of pride,” Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin mused post-game.
The Tamaraws still had a shot in the dying seconds and the ball found the bottom of the net, but replay reviews showed it left Ron Dennison’s hand a little too late. “Shot went down. I don’t think you can separate these teams with a sledgehammer and a crowbar, our last shot just went in,” Baldwin expressed.
Defeated in the endgame of their matchup last Saturday, the young Eagles proved their poise in this game. While the now dethroned champions leaned on Dennison and graduating players Monbert Arong and Raymar Jose, it was Go who registered both the go-ahead basket and the challenge on FEU’s last attempt.
The second-year big man almost wasn’t on the floor in the endgame as blood rushed out of his nose following an inadvertent elbow from Prince Orizu in the middle of overtime. It didn’t take long for him to make a return, however, and make an immediate impact.
“When the game is on the line, you just have to play,” Go said after winding up with a 12-point, 14-rebound double-double. He backstopped Thirdy Ravena and Mike Nieto who scored 13 points each.
Although already dethroned, FEU can rest assured that they left it all on the court. Arong ended up with 15 points and seven rebounds to lead the way while Jose posted his usual 12-point, 12-rebound double-double.
Awaiting Ateneo in the championship round is archrival De La Salle University – the first time they will wage war for all the glory since 2008.
The so-called ‘Dream Finals’ commences on Saturday at the MOA Arena.
ATENEO 69 – Ravena 13, Nieto Mi 13, Go 12, Tolentino 9, Wong 8, Nieto Ma 7, Asistio 3, Verano 2, Black 2, Ikeh 0
FEU 68 – Arong 15, Jose 12, Escoto 11, Dennison 8, Inigo 7, Comboy 5, Orizu 4, Trinidad 4, Nunag 2, Tuffin 0, Ebona 0, Holmqvist 0
QUARTER SCORES: 15-20, 38-41, 53-49, 66-66, 69-68 (OT)
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