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Ateneo keep finals dream alive, overcome La Salle to force Game 2

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Having won three straight do-or-die games in a row, the Ateneo de Manila University know by now how to show character in the midst of adversity.

And that’s exactly what the Lady Eagles did, overcoming an 11-point first-half deficit with grit, to shock favorites De La Salle University, 55-53, Wednesday in the UAAP Season 78 women’s basketball tournament step-ladder semi-finals at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Lady Eagles out-scored the Lady Archers 22-8 in the third frame to survive their fourth straight win-or-go-home battle, forcing a sudden-death playoff on Saturday at the Araneta Coliseum.

The winner of Saturday’s match will move on to the finals against thrice-to-beat National University.

Down 11 and struggling to hit their outside shots in the first half, Ateneo suddenly connected with three triples in a row, including two from Jollina Go to cut the 36-25 hole into a 38-36 deficit.

Another triple by Go later on knotted the count at 41 apiece, before Hazelle Yam scored five straight to hand the Lady Eagles a 47-43 lead.

Danica Jose’s basket early in the fourth quarter gave Ateneo their biggest lead at 50-44, before Ara Abaca scored 6 of La Salle’s next 8 points to tie the count at 52-all.

Both teams struggled from the field in the final three minutes. Yam’s fastbreak layup moments after an Abaca split ended the dry spell giving Ateneo a 54-53 edge.

La Salle had many chances to snatch the lead back but Ana Castillo missed a trey and had a bad entry pass stolen away.

Jose, however, was unable to convert on the other end. Marga Dagdagan rushed a triple in transition which only hit the back iron.

Likhang Javier grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 7.3 seconds left, allowing Ateneo to call for time. Jose was fouled with 5.2 seconds remaining and sank a charity to make it 55-53.

Abaca then missed the final two shots at the buzzer, allowing Ateneo to escape.

Yam scored 19 points to lead the Lady Eagles, and added 2 assists. Go chipped in 11 points including 3-for-5 from three-point area.

Ateneo shot 60 percent from three-point area, while limiting La Salle to only 2-for-12 from the same distance. Ateneo also had more assists, 11-9.

Snow Peñaranda came through with 12 points and 9 boards to lead La Salle. Abaca added 11 points but shot a miserable 5-for-26 from the field. Camille Claro and Castillo were also limited, combining for only 8 points on 3-for-11 shooting.

Scores:

Ateneo (55) – Yam 19, Go 11, Jose 6, Tomita 6, Javier 6, Guytingco 4, Aseron 3, Buendia 0, Nitorreda 0, Deacon 0.

La Salle (53) – Penaranda 12, Abaca 11, Roxas 7, Vergara 5, Dagdagan 4, Castillo 4, Ong 4, Claro 4, Revillosa 2, Vela 0, Gonzales 0, Arciga 0.

Quarterscores: 11-16, 25-36, 47-44, 55-53.

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