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DEFENDING champion De La Salle University’s road to another title got off to a wrong start, thanks to its archrivals from Katipunan.
Ateneo de Manila, already assured of the top spot and the first twice-to-beat incentive in the Final Four, played with a purpose and gave the Green Archers a sound beating, 65-57 to relegate its nemesis to a virtual best-of-three tiff against Far Eastern University in the Final Four of the 71st UAAP men’s basketball tournament last September 6, 2008 at the Araneta Coliseum.
As a result, the Archers will have to take on the Tamaraws at least two more times if they are to secure their place in this year’s finals.
In front of nearly 22,200 fans, the Blue Eagles did not play like a squad content with their standing. Instead, they were relentless from the opening tip, racing to a 16-4 lead in the first quarter.
The Eagles managed to ground DLSU chief gunner JV Casio, who struggled all game and missed all but two of his 16 field goal attempts. The usually cool and steady guard failed to catch fire, due in part to a seemingly slippery pair of shoes and more so the stingy defense put up by coach Norman Black’s wards.
Ateneo continued to pummel the Green Archers in the third period, where it posted a game-high 15-point edge, 54-39, on back-to-back baskets by Eric Salamat inside the two-minute mark. Watching the Archers execute their offense seemed like an eye sore for the Green and White faithful.
However, DLSU coach Franz Pumaren, who returned from Iran after steering the Nokia Pilipinas Youth basketball team to a respectable 7th place in the FIBA Asia Junior Championships, begged to differ.
“Ateneo played good defense, no question about it,” said Pumaren. “It was a tight game until Ateneo tightened up its screws and we couldn’t find ways to crack that defense. But we’ll be back and we should concentrate now on our next game against FEU.”
Eagles slotman Rabeh Al-Hussaini shone once more, scoring 18 points and 11 rebounds to lead his unit to a 13-1 elimination round record, the highest Ateneo has ever posted since notching the same slate in 1987.
“The game has no bearing for us but we wanted to win it for the Ateneo community. Our defense bailed us out in the end,” said Black, whose team will face the University of the East Red Warriors in the semis.
The Green Archers moved closer to 33-36 thanks to a Simon Atkins three-pointer. But Al-Hussaini and Nonoy Baclao joined forces to lead a Blue Eagle breakaway.
The last time La Salle threatened was at 57-62, after Rico Maierhofer banged in a trey. But Ateneo countered with Baclao scoring on an impressive undergoal stab off Maierhofer to extend the Eagles’ edge to 64-57, with 2:28 remaining.
Baclao contributed 11 markers, six boards and four blocks while Jai Reyes added 10 markers for the three-time UAAP champions.
Maierhofer was the lone bright spot for La Salle, chipping in 16 points and hauling down 10 rebounds.
ATENEO de Manila will be the top seeds heading into this year’s Final Four.
The Blue Eagles found National University an easier prey than they did last season after an 83-58 triumph to formally secure their twice-to-beat advantage in the semifinal round of the 71st UAAP men’s basketball tournament last August 30, 2008 at the Philsports Arena.
Ateneo masterfully executed its game plan against NU in the early goings, sprinting to an 18-5 first quarter advantage.
The Blue Eagles, though, evoked memories of their bitter defeat against the same Bulldogs quintet last season that cost them the twice-to-beat cushion. They squandered a 16-point first quarter lead and found themselves trailing by one, 31-32, inside the four-minute mark of the second period.
But the perimeter troika of Chris Tiu, Jai Reyes and Eric Salamat conspired for one big play after another to turn a close encounter into a full-blown rout.
Tiu completed a three-point play, Reyes knocked in a triple and Salamat scored a breakaway bucket at the halftime buzzer as Ateneo posted a 49-37 lead after the first 20 minutes of action.
Ateneo continued its solid showing for the rest of the second half. A Salamat basket put the Blue and White up by 15, 65-50 with 8:14 in the fourth period. Norman Black’s wards even extended the advantage to 21 points on six straight points by Rabeh Al-Hussaini, the last of which came in the 5:14 mark of the final quarter.
The Katipunan outfit managed to keep its cool for the duration of the game as well. In the early part of the first quarter, NU center Raymond Aguilar was meted an unsportsmanlike foul after elbowing Ryan Buenafe in a loose-ball situation. Edwin Asoro was then assessed with the same foul in a play with Ateneo forward Nonoy Baclao, who was then warned by the officials for “trash-talking.”
Although the showdown against De La Salle will not be a no-bearing game for his squad, Black said he will use this game as a fitting way to prepare for the tougher battles in the Final Four.
“People will come there to watch and see how Ateneo and La Salle will fight it out,” said Black. “Every Ateneo-La Salle game is like a championship bout, so expect everything in that game.”
It will be an important game for La Salle as it is in the hunt for the last of the two twice-to-beat advantages in the semifinals.
“They’re going all out in our next game. But we need these kinds of games to sharpen us for the semifinals,” Black said.
Al-Hussaini paced the Blue Eagles with 20 points and six boards, while Tiu, Salamat and Reyes all scored in double-digits.
NU, meanwhile, which fell to 2-11, was bannered by Asoro’s 19 points.
NEXT TARGET: A twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four of the 71st UAAP men’s basketball competition.
Another double-double performance from Rabeh Al-Hussaini and a scintillating display of passing skills by Chris Tiu have assured the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles of at least a playoff for that coveted advantage in the semifinals after a 79-58 demolition of University of the Philippines last August 24, 2008 at the Araneta Coliseum.
Al-Hussaini put up solid numbers that once again made a solid case for an MVP award. His fifth double-double of the season – a 24-point, 17-rebound performance – steered the Blue Eagles to victory in the so-called “Battle of Katipunan.”
Tiu, for his part, recorded a career-high 10 assists, incidentally the most since ex-National University playmaker Jason’s Malcontento’s 11 in the 69th edition of the UAAP. He also netted 14 points and grabbed six boards.
The final score, though, hid the difficulties Ateneo encountered against UP, especially in the early goings of the match.
“I felt that our teamwork was bad in the first half,” Ateneo coach Norman Black said. “At halftime, I talked about [the fact] that we have been an unselfish team all year, [so] let us not start to change now.”
Egged on by their coach’s halftime pep talk, the Blue Eagles dished out 13 assists in the second half en route to 23 fastbreak points for the game. They stormed to a 54-39 lead in the third period then clustered a pair of 7-0 runs to secure the win.
Black also credited the team’s second unit, which sustained the team’s big lead in the second half.
“In the last two games, I don’t think they stepped up. But they did a particularly good job of separating from UP. Usually, they either maintain the lead or go down a little bit,” said Black.
Woody Co and Magi Sison each scored 10 points to pace this year’s hosts, who went 0-14 last year.
The Fighting Maroons, who sported black uniforms for the first time this season, slipped to 3-9, and are officially out of contention for the Final Four. They failed to advance past the elimination round for the 11th straight year. Their last stint in the semifinals was in 1997 with the likes of Paolo Mendoza, Bryan Gahol and Ogie Gumatay leading UP’s charge.
ATENEO DE MANILA University seems to have University of the East’s number this season.
Chris Tiu buried a trey with 13 ticks left in regulation to send the game into overtime and had Rabeh Al-Hussaini and Ryan Buenafe finish the game for his squad as the Blue Eagles scored a come-from-behind, 61-57 win over the Red Warriors in the 71st UAAP men’s basketball competition last August 21, 2008 at the Araneta Coliseum.
With the victory, the Ateneo Blue Eagles improved to 10-1, strengthening their bid for a twice-to-beat bonus in the Final Four in the process. The Katipunan outfit also swept its season series with the boys from Recto.
“Definitely, this was a tough game against one of the toughest teams in the league,” said Ateneo mentor Norman Black. “We expected a tough game and good thing, Chris [Tiu] and Ryan [Buenafe] hit those big shots.”
Trailing by three at 47-50, Tiu, who scored 18 points to go along with nine rebounds and three assists, faked Marcy Arellano and nailed a clutch triple that evened the count at 50.
In overtime, Ateneo shattered a 57-57 deadlock thanks to Buenafe, who penetrated down the lane and scored on a difficult lay-up to steer the Blue and White to a two-point lead with 21.1 ticks left.
The Red Warriors tried to tie the count, but Elmer Espiritu failed to convert an undergoal stab after being tightly defended by Nonoy Baclao, who then hauled down the rebound and fished a foul from UE guard Paul Zamar to stop the clock.
Baclao, who registered a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds, calmly sank his two free throws with 6.5 seconds left to seal the deal for the Blue Eagles.
UE, which went a season-low 2-of-3 from the foul line, dropped to a 6-5 slate – just one-and-a-half games ahead of fifth-running University of Santo Tomas (4-6) for the last semifinals slot.
The vastly-improved Al-Hussaini paced Ateneo with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Zamar, son of former UE coach Boysie, led UE with 13 points.
The Red Warriors took a 42-36 lead at the end of third quarter but squandered their advantage after the Blue Eagles went on a 9-0 rampage to trim the deficit to one, 47-48. UE forward Hans Thiele converted on an 18-foot bankshot that increased his squad’s lead to three, before Tiu sent the game into an extra five-minute period.
Ateneo made 19 of 25 attempts from the foul line. The Blue Eagles also surprisingly limited the quick Red Warriors to just four fastbreak points.
ANOTHER MVP-like performance for Rabeh Al-Hussaini equals another Final Four appearance for Ateneo de Manila University.
The Blue Eagles banked on yet another solid game from their premier center, who powered his team past the Adamson Falcons, 78-59, in the 71st UAAP men’s basketball tournament last August 17, 2008 at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City.
The 6’7” Al-Hussaini came away with 29 points and six rebounds in what proved to be a scintillating performance by the 4th year cager out of Philippine Christian University. He unloaded 14 points in the first period alone as the Blue Eagles took control of the game and booked their ninth win in 10 games.
With the win, Ateneo is assured of a Final Four spot, its 10th straight since 1999 when Joe Lipa ran the show from the sidelines for the Katipunan outfit, which featured the likes of Enrico Villanueva, Rich Alvarez and Wesley Gonzales.
But for Ateneo coach Norman Black, the Blue Eagles have yet to land at their final destination.
“I’m happy about making it to the Final Four. But our goal is to make it to the top two. So, it does not stop here. We have to keep on winning, keep on playing hard, and keep on respecting our opponents because we have no time to relax right now. This is far from over. It’s a long road,” said Black.
Eric Salamat, who played more minutes in lieu of Chris Tiu and his sub-par showing, tallied 17 points and a season-high six steals while Nonoy Baclao and Jai Reyes had six markers apiece.
Coach Leo Austria’s wards never had a taste of the lead in the game, threatening only at one point in the third quarter when they managed to bring the lead down to six, 39-45. Ateneo quelled the threat, however, by going on a 10-0 blast to extend its lead to 16.
Ateneo’s win is also its 23rd straight against Adamson – the longest active winning streak in the UAAP. The Falcons’ last victory against the Eagles – a 54-52 nailbiter – was on September 18, 1997 at the Ninoy Aquino Coliseum.
The Blue and White shot a remarkable 51.4 percent from the field, their highest this season, and scored a season-high 25 fastbreak points.
Jerick Cañada topscored with 12 points for the Falcons, who dropped to the bottom of the heap along with the National University Bulldogs and the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons with similar 2-8 slates. All three teams are no longer in the running for a semifinal birth.
ARGUABLY the UAAP’s most explosive duo once again delivered for Ateneo de Manila University.
Chris Tiu hit the big outside shots while Rabeh Al-Hussaini delivered down low as the Blue Eagles were virtually unstoppable in disposing of the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers, 85-76, in the 71st UAAP men’s basketball tournament last August 14, 2008 at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City.
Tiu, who is playing in his final year for the Blue Eagles, waxed hot to finish with 29 points, while Al-Hussaini went toe-to-toe with UST counterpart Jervy Cruz in the paint to tally 24 markers.
“We made our outside shots despite having a little problem in defending the shaded lane,” said Tiu, whose Blue Eagles upped their mark to a league-leading 8-1. “But we’ll take this win.”
Ateneo finished with a 14-of-31 clip from the paint, while UST shot 21-of-54.
“We’ve been hurting in the shaded lane, but the team with a high shooting percentage, of course, will win the game,” said Ateneo coach Norman Black. “We are aiming for the top two spots. I credit Al-Hussaini and Tiu for making crucial shots.”
Eric Salamat, who nearly suffered a dislocated jaw in the Eagles’ game against FEU last week, poured in 14 points.
The Growling Tigers threatened in the final period at 60-65, with Cruz scoring a jumper. But the Blue Eagles uncorked a 10-2 run to erect a 75-62 spread with 2:31 remaining.
UST, which never led throughout the game, slid to 4-5 and solo fifth place to fall a full game behind University of the East (5-4) in the hunt for the last semifinals berth.
Cruz had 23 points and 18 rebounds, while Dylan Ababou chipped in with 17 points for the Growling Tigers.
Ateneo stepped on the gas in the early going, with Tiu and Salamat scoring the points to help create a 20-7 lead with a minute to go in the first period.
Ateneo 85 – Tiu 29, Al-Hussaini 24, Salamat 14, Austria 7, Reyes 4, Buenafe 2, Nkemakolam 2, Salva 2, Baclao 1, Baldos 0, Long 0.