Ateneo escapes UST late run, enters UAAP finals
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Ateneo edged University of Santo Tomas, 69-66, on Thursday at the Big Dome to enter the UAAP finals, bringing the Blue Eagles to the verge of its fourth consecutive championship.
Greg Slaughter finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and three blocks while Kiefer Ravena and Nico Salva added 13 and 12 each for the Blue Eagles.
The Eagles enjoyed a comfortable lead that went as high as 14 points, 44-30, in the third quarter. UST made a late run sparked by Jeric Fortuna's clutch three late in the fourth canto to cut Ateneo's lead to five, 65-60.
Ateneo got back to its form that allowed it to win 13 consecutive games prior to the Final Four before a lopsided loss to Adamson at the close of the elimination round that stopped the Blue Eagles from an outright finals spot.
“Anytime you lose a game, it’s difficult to get the confidence back. We went through a whole week with questions if we are still hungry for a crown or we peaked too early. But I think we did a good job of bouncing back," said Ateneo coach Norman Black.
“We controlled the game for the most part but our defense held up especially in the end when UST was making their three-point shots which is their strength," Black said.
After a close first quarter, the Blue Eagles broke away when Salva, Slaughter and Ravena made baskets for a 36-26 lead and a 38-30 advantage at the half.
The Blue Eagles’ lead reached 15 points when Slaughter hit two free throws, 48-33, before the seven-footer slammed home a two-handed dunk on an alley-oop pass from Salva to make it a 50-37 game.
UST made it close hitting their three-point shots in the fourth period. The Tigers hit four triples in the final period but Jeric Fortuna missed a triple at the buzzer to end the game.
Chris Camus hit two threes in the fourth and Jeric Teng hit another triple that made it a one-point game, 67-66, with 5.5 seconds left but Salva hit two free throws for a three-point lead with 2.7 seconds left.
The Tigers struggled from the free throw line as they made only 15-of-26 shots from the charity stripe while also committing crucial turnovers late in the game.
Karim Abdul had 11 of his 16 points in the first quarter as he kept the Tigers in the game early. He also added 16 rebounds, two steals and two blocks but that wasn’t enough. -MCG/OMG/HS, GMA News
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