MANILA, Philippines—Defending champion Ateneo nailed a record-tying 12th straight semifinal stint as the Blue Eagles turned back the Adamson Falcons, 55-52, Sunday in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament at the Araneta Coliseum.
Ryan Buenafe, Nico Salva and Emman Monfort drilled the clutch baskets that secured for the Eagles the second Final Four berth with a 9-3 win-loss record.
Monfort’s two foul shots with 13 seconds left set the final score as Adamson’s Lester Alvarez missed a potential game-tying triple in the dwindling seconds.
“This is one of those games when I felt that [the enemy] knew exactly everything that we wanted to do and they knew exactly how to defend it,” said Ateneo coach Norman Black.
“The good thing is, we knew exactly what they (the Falcons) wanted to do, too. And we did a good job defensively.”
The Eagles grabbed solo second over the Falcons, just half a game behind idle Far Eastern U Tamaraws (9-2), who secured the first semifinal slot last week.
Ateneo tied La Salle’s record of 12 straight Final Four appearances from 1994 to 2005, thanks largely to double-double efforts of Buenafe (14 points and 12 rebounds) and Salva (13 points and 12 boards).
Earlier, the National U Bulldogs nipped last year’s runner-up, University of the East, 69-68, to eliminate the Warriors from semifinal contention for the first time in eight years.
The Bulldogs, who nearly blew an 11-point advantage in the last seven minutes, stoked their own Final Four bid by improving to a fifth-best 5-6 card.
Cameroonian rookie Emmanuel Mbe buried 18 points, including back-to-back baskets that gave the Bulldogs a 61-50 lead, on top of nine boards and two blocks.
The Falcons, who dropped to third at 8-4, called the attention of commissioner Ato Badolato at halftime over a missing patch on Jumbo Escueta’s shorts.
Ateneo bucked the bizarre halftime episode that eventually saw the ejection of its back-up big man for wearing the wrong uniform.
The violation is penalized with two technical free throws plus possession, on top of the disqualification of the erring player.
“He had the right uniform, but one of the patches fell off,” said Black, whose squad absorbed a stunning 60-62 loss against the Warriors last Thursday. “That was unfortunate.”
The Falcons last held the lead after an Alvarez triple, 52-51, with 2:21 left, before Salva gave the advantage back to the Eagles, 53-52.
The Falcons were held to their lowest score and shooting clip (28.8 percent) this season.
The Eagles also stretched their head-to-head record over the Falcons to 27 straight victories, dating back to 1997.
Jewel Ponferrada scored 15 points, eight rebounds and four blocks, while Kokoy Hermosisima chipped in 11 points for the Bulldogs.
“We still want to be in the Final Four,” said NU coach Eric Gonzales.
The Warriors, who dropped to seventh at 4-8, rallied within a bucket, 66-64, in a run that included a four-point play by James Martinez.
Paul Lee had a chance to tie the game, but nailed only one of two free throws, 66-65. Photo by Celest Flores
NATIONAL U 69—Mbe 18, Ponferrada 15, Hermosisima 11, Khobuntin 8, Terso 5, Baloran 5, Ignacio 3, Javillonar 2, Tungcul 2, Singh 0, Malanday 0, Magat 0.
UE 68—Acibar 16, Martinez 14, Zamar 11, Lee 10, Rosopa 6, Reyes 6, Casajeros 5, Santos 0, Tagarda 0, Noble 0, Duran 0.
Quarters: 20-16, 37-39, 57-48, 69-68
ATENEO 55—Buenafe 14, Salva 13, Long 10, Salamat 7, Monfort 7, Chua 4, Escueta 0, Dela Cruz 0, Tiongson 0, Golla 0.
ADAMSON 52—Alvarez 22, Nuyles 14, Lozada 6, Colina 3, Camson 3, Galinato 2, Manyara 1, Cabrera 1, Stinnett 0.
Quarters: 16-10, 22-21, 41-34, 55-52