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Blue Eagles escape Tamaraws; secure twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four.

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Everybody in the stands thought that the game was over, but little did they know they were up for a treat.

The Ateneo De Manila University (ADMU) Blue Eagles defeated the Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws in overtime, 68-64, to secure the number one spot plus the twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four during their second round encounter of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 77 this afternoon at the Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City.

The Blue Eagles opened the overtime period with a 7-0 run to grab the lead, 66-59, behind the heroics of their backcourt players Kiefer Ravena and Nico Elorde, with 2:50 remaining. FEU guard Roger Pogoy clipped the Blue Eagles’ run to seven after storming his way inside and making a lay-up of his own to bring it down to 66-61 with 2:35 left. Pogoy further trimmed the Tamaraws’ deficit to four, 66-62, after splitting his charities thirty seconds after his lay-up.

ADMU tried to stop the Tamaraws from getting momentum in the offensive end, but big man Alfonso Gotladera inadvertently gave up a foul to FEU forward Carl Cruz with 54.9 seconds remaining, sending Cruz to the foul line. Cruz sank both of his free throws and lifted the Tamaraws to close within two, 66-64.

Lagging behind by just two points, the Tamaraws strengthened their presence on the defensive end, pushing the Blue Eagles to commit a 24-second shot clock violation with 29.8 ticks on the clock. Unfortunately, center Anthony Hargrove committed a foul to Ravena, sending him to the line. Ravena split his freebies, extending their lead to 3, 67-64, in favor of the Blue Eagles with 19.6 seconds left.

The Tamaraws had a chance to send the game into a 2nd overtime, but guard Mike Tolomia overcooked his trifecta. FEU and ADMU wrestled for the rebound underneath, until Gotladera grabbed the precious board. Gotladera was fouled by Cruz, and he managed to split his free throws to make it a two-possession game, 68-64, with 11.1 seconds in the game. The Tams tried to make a basket in their final hold of the ball, but it wounded up in a turnover and an Ateneo victory.

The fourth quarter of the game was actually owned by the sons of Morayta as they held a 19-point cushion, 45-26, but, the Blue Eagles would claw their way back with a 12-0 run after Ravena’s inside lay-up at the 2:26 mark. bringing the deficit to five, 57-52,  Hargrove cut the Blue Eagles’ run with split  freethrows, pushing their lead to six, 58-52, with 2:07 remaining.

With a sense of urgency, the Blue Eagles quickly pulled off a 7-1 run capped by Ravena’s two free throws to send the game into a 59-all deadlock with twenty seconds left. Tolomia had a chance to win the game and grab the twice-to-beat advantage, but he clanged both of his free throws with 2.8 ticks left, sending the game into an extra period.

The Tamaraws opened the third quarter with a slim seven-point lead, 25-18, and the Blue Eagles were caught off-guard by FEU for most of the quarter. The Tamaraws posted their first double-digit lead of the second half in this frame at ten, 35-25, when Tolomia’s trey found the bottom of the net, with six minutes remaining. FEU pulled off an 11-1 run afterwards to cap off the third.

The second canto opened 12-7 in favor of the Tamaraws. The obvious low-scoring affair came off a sloppy performance from the both teams during the opening frame, wherein no baskets were made until the 7:58 mark, when FEU forward Mark Belo made his lay-up off the spin from the post.

Kiefer Ravena led the Hail Mary squad with 23 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals. Chris Newsome posted a double-double with 13 points and 16 rebounds, and also stole the ball 4 times. For the Tams-side, Mac Belo would lead the way with 16 points, 8 rebounds and a couple of steals. Belo was complimented by Pogoys 15 points, 8 rebounds and 3 steals.

Despite the loss,  there is still a glimmer of hope for the green-and-gold squad to gain a twice-to-beat advantage. They will have to wait and see whether De La Salle University Green Archers or National University Bulldogs will face them for a tie-breaker match for second place.

Oftentimes on the sidelines. Forever a student of the game. Morayta-bred.

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