Playing on a bigger stage, and in a game with higher stakes, Ateneo de Manila University came through with an impressive playoff performance to eke out a 65-62 win over higher-seeded University of the East in the UAAP Season 78 women’s basketball tournament stepladder semi-finals Saturday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
In another crucial test — the third win-or-go-home affair in a row — the Lady Eagles closed out the fourth quarter with clutch baskets and stops to advance to the next face of the women’s basketball semi-finals against twice-to-beat De La Salle University starting on Wednesday next week at the MOA Arena.
Danica Jose capped a virtuoso performance by nailing two free throws in the final 5.3 seconds to push Ateneo’s lead to 65-62, before the Lady Eagles forced Ruthlaine Tacula to an airballed triple try as time expired, allowing the Loyola side to escape.
Jose finished with a efficient 17 points on 7-for-14 shooting and added 8 rebounds and 4 blocked shots. Support came aplenty as Hazelle Yam scored 17 points while Katrina Guytingco and Akiko Tomita chipped in 10 points apiece.
The Lady Eagles shot 50 percent from the field and limited the Lady Warriors to a woeful 29.1 percent. Ateneo also had a 19-10 lead in fastbreak points and a 19-6 edge in turnover points.
Still, the resilient UE side stormed back from as high as a 13-point deficit and tied the match in the second half.
Baskets by Yam and Guytingco pushed the Ateneo lead to 35-22 before Tacula got going offensively as the Lady Warriors cut the deficit to only 35-29 entering the halftime break.
UE then went on a full court trap in the third frame to slowly dissolve the gap. A Camille Taguiam trey tied the game at 47 apiece although Tomita scored 6 in the third quarter alone to help Ateneo maintain some cushion at 53-50.
A steal by Yam later on leading to a fastbreak layup followed by a jumper by Kitkat Nitorreda gave Ateneo a wider margin at 59-52.
But UE once again trimmed the advantage to only 63-62 after Love Joy Sto. Domingo blocked Cara Buendia and finished on the other end with a put back.
Chan fouled Jose in the ensuing play as the latter sank two charities to lead the Lady Eagles.
UE held a commanding 56-38 rebounding edge, including a 29-3 advantage in offensive boards which led to 18 second chance points.
Tacula led the Lady Warriors with 17 points, 12 rebounds, and 2 assists although committed 7 turnovers. Sto. Domingo added 16 points and 8 rebounds while Ano-os had 11 points on 4-for-23 shooting.
Ateneo (65) – Jose 17, Yam 17, Guytingco 10, Tomita 10, Go 7, Buendia 2, Javier 0, Aseron 0, Deacon 0, Lamar 0.
UE (62) – Tacula 17, Sto. Domingo 16, Ano-os 11, Mendina 8, Chan 7, Taguiam 3, Ramos 0, Sampaga 0, Francisco 0.
Quarterscores: 21-16, 35-29, 53-50, 65-62.
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