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Dream lives on: Ateneo barges into finals after ousting La Salle

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The miracle run continues.

Ateneo de Manila University’s awe-inspiring run from almost-eliminated team to legitimate playoff contender continued in a momentous way after it ousted De La Salle University, 62-50, in the UAAP Season 78 women’s basketball tournament stepladder semi-finals Saturday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

Drawing strength from a 55-53 win last Wednesday, the Lady Eagles once again played better hoops than the second-seeded Lady Archers en route to a 24-12 fourth quarter burst which enabled them to secure the win, marching towards an improbable finals stint.

The Lady Eagles blazed into the championship round, where they will face the still-undefeated reigning titlists National University starting Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Lady Bulldogs hold a thrice-to-beat advantage or a 1-0 lead in a virtual best-of-5 series.

La Salle, who lost to Far Eastern University in Season 77 despite holding a twice-to-beat edge, suffered the same fate.

The game was still tied at 38 apiece before the fourth quarter, when Danica Jose asserted her might with back-to-back baskets underneath to push Ateneo ahead, 44-40.

A back-and-forth duel between La Salle’s Camille Claro and Ara Abaca and Ateneo’s Hazelle Yam and Akiko Tomita ensued, with the Lady Eagles maintaining a 51-48 lead under the five-minute mark.

The Lady Archers then struggled with their outside shots, leading to back-breaking fastbreak layups for Likhang Javier and Katrina Guytingco, which increased the Ateneo lead to 57-48 under the last two minutes.

An Abaca basket cut the deficit down to 57-50 but misses by Alyanna Vergara and Ana Castillo from beyond the arc contributed to La Salle’s downfall.

Jose and Yam nailed free throws on the other end as Ateneo finished the game on an 11-2 run.

The Lady Archers took a 24-19 edge in the second period after Jose was saddled by foul trouble, but the Ateneo big’s return enabled the Loyola side to cover the paint and close the first half on a 7-0 run to take a 26-24 lead.

La Salle again threatened to take control in the third quarter, with Vergara’s three making it 38-34 for the Lady Archers. But a split by Guytingco and a Jollina Go three knotted the count at 38 apiece.

Ateneo shot incredibly better from the field, at 51 percent compared to only 33.3 percent for La Salle. The Lady Eagles assisted 15 field goal against only 6 for the Lady Archers, and had 18 points off 20 La Salle turnovers.

Yam topscored for Ateneo with 15 points on 6-for-11 shooting. Go added 13 points while Jose had 11 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 assists.

Claro played better this time, scoring 13 markers, while Abaca added 12 points. However, Castillo and Marga Dagdagan combined for only 5 points.

Scores:

Ateneo (62) – Yam 15, Go 13, Jose 11, Tomita 9, Guytingco 7, Buendia 5, Javier 2.

La Salle (50) – Claro 13, Abaca 12, Vergara 8, Revillosa 4, Castillo 3, Ong 3, Penaranda 3, Dagdagan 2, Roxas 2.

Quarterscores: 15-12, 26-24, 38-38, 62-50.

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