Original article posted in Ubelt.com
The Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) Blue Eagles survived the mighty claws of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers with a 69-64 victory on September 23 at the Big Dome and booked another showdown with formidable rivals De La Salle University (DLSU) Green Archers for the last ticket to the best-of-three Finals on September 27 as the UAAP Season 70 nears its end.
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Severino Baclao saved the Eagles’ day in the fourth despite being haunted with four personal fouls as he further increased the lead of his team to five and sustained the team’s composure and upper hand until the end of the regulation.
It also seemed that Claiford Arao rose to the critical occasion despite a rainy Sunday as he was the most productive Eagle with 17 points and 6 rebounds.
Chris Tiu also delivered the goods for the Katipunan-based squad as he converted 14 points, two of which were successful from beyond the arc.
Dylan Ababou converted a three- pointer to stop the further bleeding of the Tigers and brought down the big margin of the Eagles to five at 65-60 less than 2 minutes left in the regulation. Baclao scored from inside the paint to force the Blue and White squad to a 7-point bubble over the Growling Tigers followed by Arao’s charity shot after a Mark Canlas conversion less than 50 seconds left in the game.
Erik Salamat sealed the Eagles’ victory with a free throw after Francis Allera scored the last two points for the last season’s Champions.
Ateneo finally broke away from UST in the third as its big men were as productive as its guards.
Arao, Baclao, Salamat and Tiu were all over the Tigers as they connected with points enough to pull the team away from possible danger.
After an unsportsmanlike foul committed by Anthony Espiritu and a turnover by Ababou at the start of the second half, Baclao connected with a field goal that posted Ateneo’s double digit margin over USTe at 41-30. The Blue and White rally went on as the Espana-based squad continued to struggle inside-out.
The Growling Tigers trailed closer to the Eagles as it wiped-out the latter’s big margin and brought it down to two with Ababou’s completion of a three-point play less than four minutes left in the third at 46-44.
Rabeth Al- Hussaini converted his three points in two occasions from the free throw line that gave the Eagles a breathing space at four points away from the Tigers. Jervy Cruz shot a field goal, 34 seconds left to keep the Tigers within the Eagles’ range at the end of the third at 55-51.
UST was rather aggressive in the first quarter but faded during the second half of the game. The Growling Tigers posted a 9-2 run in the beginning. Arao cut the Espana-based squad’s early scare by converting two consecutive field goals. Tiu made a hook shot after a 3-point miss by Jun Cortez to stay at par with the striking Tigers at 8-13. Kirk Long followed with his easy two-point conversion to bring the Eagles to double digits before ending the quarter. Espiritu shot his version of a triple, 17 ticks away from the end of the first to increase the Tigers’ cushion to eight at 10-18.
Coach Pido Jarencio’s boys led by as much as 7 points in the early stages of the second quarter as Cruz scattered three field goals in two minutes despite Tiu’s first conversion from beyond the arc at the start.
Tiu shot his second three 5:30 minutes left in the second to inch the Eagles closer to the Tigers at 22-26.
Jai Reyes posted the Eagles’ second deadlock of the game at 30-all less than three minutes left in the second quarter.
Ababou fouled Michael Baldos and gave him two charities. Baldos converted his freebies that brought the Eagles on top at 32-30 at the end of the first half.
Ateneo was more efficient in the second with 22 points as compared to 12 of UST.
Despite losing the game and missing the chances of going back-to-back to the Finals scene, Cruz served his last game this season with another double-double at 17 points and 16 rebounds.
Ateneo will face La Salle on Thursday with the latter bearing a twice-to-beat advantage.