By JP Abcede (Original article from Ubelt)
It took a difference of a millisecond between losing and, probably, winning as Rico Maierhofer held the ball a little longer than necessary at the buzzer as Ateneo de Manila University escaped De La Salle University, 89-87.
Yuri Escueta drove and attracted the defense then kicked the ball out to a waiting Chris Tiu at right quarter court :17.8 to go for the marginal basket. With ample time for one more play, Casio missed a fadeaway jump shot from 15 feet with Maierhofer attempting to send the game into overtime but in vain.
“The guys showed a lot of grit and guts tonight,” said ADMU coach Norman Black. “(Escueta) is our main man.”
Tiu was 4/5 from the three-point country for 19 points, seven rebounds, and two assists. Ford Arao had 18 markers on 8/10 freethrow marksmanship, grabbed eight boards, and dished two feeds.
Escueta had 16 points on a perfect 5/5 shooting and four assists in a career defining game. Eric Salamat had 15 and five assists, and Jobe Nkemakolam had an output of ten on 6/6 shooting at the line, and six caroms.
The Blue Eagles made 10/17 from outside on 50% overall field goal shooting, while making 81% of their freebies. They also had 19 assists and five blocks.
Maierhofer had a career best of 24 points and nine rebounds. Cholo Villanueva netted 18 markers. TY Tang had an all-around night with 15, eight boards, and five assists, while Bader Malabes scored 11.
The Archers made hay on the hustle department with 16 transition points and 16 turnover points.
Interestingly, Casio’s five points in the game were the last points of De La Salle in the match.
“It looks that way. We will be going to play this team again,” Black commented on Ateneo’s nemesis, who is on a tug-of-war battle for a twice-to-beat advantage. With this conquest, the blue and white is now tied with the vanquished at 9-4.
“Focus is now on NU. This victory would not mean anything if we lose against NU,” Black rued. “We only beat them by one point the first time around. All we have to do is beat NU and we are number two.”
Appropriately, that Ateneo versus National University tussle would close out the eliminations on September 15. The green and white faces the challenge of foiling University of the East’s sweep on September 13 at the Araneta Coliseum.
“I am expecting anything at this point,” and this is including a probable protest when asked by a reporter to Black in the postgame interview. “I have come to expect a last second play.”
ADMU stormed off a 13-3 start with Jai Reyes passing off to Noynoy Baclao from a pressbreak play, 7:01 in the first quarter. Not to be outdone, the Taft-based squad replied with a 14-0 kick to bridge the two periods with Villanueva hitting a three-point play off Ken Barracoso, 21-15, 9:47.
Arao tied the count with two freethrows off a Brian Ilad foul, 3:50 in the second, 30-all. Maierhofer responded with five straight to give the Green Archers headaway going into the locker, 40-33, 1:19.
A 7-0 start at the third gave DLSU its highest lead, 51-38, 8:23. Nevertheless, the Katipunan-based crew had an 8-2 finish concluded by a threes from Tiu and Eric Salamat, and a twisting layup from Nkemakolam to go within by one, 64-65.
Two straight Villanueva baskets forced Black to call an early timeout with Maierhofer’s split at the line providing a seven-point cushion, 73-66, 7:05. The leather was swung around by Tiu and Escueta to Salamat at the side for a trey and a tie, 75-all, with Escueta’s quick undergoal gave the Eagles the upperhand momentarily, less than four minutes remaining.
Tang’s three from near the top of the key evened things up once more, 79-all, as both sides pushed and pulled for the lead until Tiu’s game-winning three.
“I thought we won the first game,” Black stated. “A lot of people were questioning that with the protest.”
As for the referees, Black had this to say, “I was a little bit upset at times. But that is part of the passion of the game.”