Eaglets survive scare from Baby Tams to seize playoff berth

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Jan 20, 2018 12:47 PM
Eaglets survive scare from Baby Tams to seize playoff berth
Ateneo was unable to rout its opponent for the very first time in the UAAP 80 Juniors Basketball Tournament - but its character-building win against FEU-Diliman was nothing but welcome

STANDINGS
Ateneo 10-0
NU 7-2
UST 5-4
FEU-Diliman 5-5
Adamson 4-5
DLSZ 3-6
UPIS 2-7
UE 1-8

For the first time in the 80th Season of the UAAP Juniors Basketball Tournament, Ateneo de Manila High School’s matchup went down the wire.

Far Eastern University-Diliman put up the best fight the undefeated league-leaders have faced thus far, but team captain SJ Belangel and Joaqui Manuel came up big in a 68-65 decision, still in favor of the Blue Eaglets on Saturday at the Filoil Flying V Centre.

The three-point margin is the smallest the kids from Katipunan have registered after 10 games. It is also the first and only time their winning margin was not in double-digits.

Dominant throughout the tournament, Ateneo was under siege after the first half and was down by eight before their team captain got together with Dave Ildefonso to outscore their opponents in the third, 15-10. Behind that 21-point quarter, they mounted a three-point lead heading into the final frame.

There, last year’s Finals MVP L-Jay Gonzales came alive with all but two of his 12 points, but was quickly responded to by Belangel.

In the endgame, it was then Manuel who took charge. In all, he had eight of his 12 points in the last seven minutes. He also had a total of 14 rebounds and four assists.

Ildefonso chipped in 11 points and eight rebounds while Kai Sotto contributed 16 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks.

While it was their first game that didn’t end in a rout, head coach Joe Silva said the close contest was actually good for them as it showed their character.

Indeed, Ateneo is gladly taking the hardfought win as it already guarantees them a spot in the playoffs.

At 10-0, they are also four more wins away from an elimination round sweep that automatically advances them into the Finals.

On the other hand, the defending champions remain winless up against the three other contenders above of them in the standings in Ateneo, Nazareth School of National University, and University of Sto. Tomas. This, despite a strong showing from RJ Abarrientos who had 16 points, six rebounds, five assists, and three steals.

At 5-5, FEU-Diliman is in need to get a win run going as Adamson High School continues to lurk behind them.

BOX SCORES

FIRST GAME

ATENEO 68 – Belangel 20, Sotto 16, Manuel 12, Ildefonso 11, Credo 9, Escalona 0, Chiu 0, Angeles 0, David 0, Jaymalin 0, Lopa 0

FEU-DILIMAN 65 – Abarrientos 16, Alforque 12, Gonzales 12, Torres 12, Sajonia 10, Celzo 0, Ona 1, Boc 0, Tolentino 0, Mariano 0

QUARTER SCORES: 10-20, 25-33, 46-43, 68-65

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