Still perfect Eaglets one win away from season sweep

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Feb 23, 2018 05:48 PM
Still perfect Eaglets one win away from season sweep
Kai Sotto, along with SJ Belangel, proved to be the difference-maker for Ateneo

Ateneo de Manila High School had the worst of starts in Game 1 of the Finals in the UAAP 80 Juniors Basketball Tournament.

It didn’t matter, though, as Kai Sotto and SJ Belangel still steered them to another win.

Sotto proved worthy of all the hype and had a triple-double and Belangel was his usual steady self as the Blue Eaglets overcame an early double-digit deficit to frustrate very game Nazareth School of National University, 86-70, on Friday at the Filoil Flying V Centre.

With the win, the kids from Katipunan are one win away from a championship and, perhaps more importantly, a clean sweep of the season.

That looked like it wasn’t going to happen in the earlygoing as, Ateneo, coming off an 11-day layoff, was at the wrong end of the Bullpups’ 8-0 start which then became a 30-17 edge at the midway mark of the second. “Ang experience, nasa NU. Medyo shaky (kami) kasi nobody in our team (has) made it to the Finals yet,” head coach Joe Silva said.

He then continued, “So I called a timeout and said, ‘O, at least nakita niyo na kung paano sa Finals. Let’s just do what we do best.’”

Do what they do best, they did, as Belangel detonated a white-hot 33-5 blast that erased the double-digits and erected a 50-35 advantage for his side with 4:11 remaining in the third.

NU would only be able to trim the double-digits once for the remainder of the game.

During that unbelievable run, the Blue Eaglets just seemed to flip the switch as Belangel was all over the floor, Sotto was unreachable at both ends, and guys like Dave Ildefonso and Jason Credo also caught fire.

Sotto wound up with 22 points, 16 rebounds, and 11 blocks – the first triple-double in the high school ranks since 2003.

Many of his baskets were set up by Belangel who had 17 markers, eight dimes, seven boards, and five steals to his name.

Ildefonso and Credo also added 21 and 13 points, respectively, to help Ateneo inch closer to its first title in three years.

Terrence Fortea paced the Bullpups with 21 points while Rhayyan Amsali chipped in an 11-point, 11-rebound double-double.

Unable to sustain their strong start, however, they now find themselves in a must-win situation come Game 2 on Tuesday still at the same venue.

BOX SCORES

ATENEO 86 – Sotto 22, Ildefonso 21, Belangel 17, Credo 13, David 8, Escalona 3, Manuel 2, Angeles 0, Chiu 0, Jaymalin 0, Lopa 0

NU 70 – Fortea 21, Oczon 13, Amsali 11, Gonzales 8, Minerva 8, Malonzo 4, Manalang 2, Felicida 2, Coyoca 1, Javillonar 0, Pangilinan 0

QUARTER SCORES: 11-17, 31-31, 61-51, 86-70

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