by JP Abcede (Original article from Ubelt.com)
It is a long day for Ateneo de Manila, a Kirk Long day. Ford Arao zipped a crosscourt pass to Long who was lounging in front of the ADMU bench. He then upfaked, took one dribble to the right for good measure, and made a fadeaway jump shot from 17 feet just as the buzzer sounded to roll out the barrel for the Blue Eagles against University of Santo Tomas, 72-71.
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“That was not exactly the play we drew up,” Ateneo coach Norman Black said, the last shot intended for Chris Tiu. “We did a good job of rotating the basketball.”
With this win, the Eagles shoot up to third with a 6-4 standing. UST ends up tied with Far Eastern University at 6-5.
“This gives us a shot on the arm,” Black stated. “The winner has a slight edge over FEU.”
With at least three teams battling for the final two slots, every game counts. Santo Tomas would have University of the Philippines and Adamson University the next two Sundays.
“We play Adamson on Saturday. There should be no letdown,” Black assured.
Ford led Ateneo de Manila with 20 points, eight rebounds, and four assists on 34 minutes. Unheralded Severino Baclao had 11 and five, while the rookie from Faith Academy made ten and three steals.
The Katipunan-based squad relied on pure volume of attempts as it made only 2/11 from outside, with Yuri Escueta making both, and 67% at the line.
“Probably if we made our foul shots, it would not be this close,” Black confessed.
Jervy Cruz was monsterrific with 22 points and 18 rebounds on 8/11 field goals and perfect at the freethrow. Khasim Mirza finished with 11 but only went 5/17 at the field. Anthony Espiritu scored ten.
USTe enjoyed ten-point leads in several occasions, the last one from an Espiritu three at the corner, 2:09 of the third quarter, 55-45. Ateneo was able to catch up and momentarily go ahead with an 8-0 run capped by a Long twisting layup, 63-61, 5:12 of the fourth.
Just like a tennis match, it was deuce until 69-all when Arao powered himself in with just :38.5 remaining. With Dylan Ababou and Japs Cuan fumbling the inbounds pass, Long fished a foul from Ababou, making the first of two.
Mirza then drove in against the shorter Long for a layup, :19.3 left.