Ateneo De Manila University booked its fifth straight Finals appearance after emerging victorious against Far Eastern University on a dominant 85-72 win in the Final Four of the UAAP Season 84 Men’s Basketball Tournament, Wednesday evening at SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Both teams figured in a tightly contested opening frame which ended in a 16-all stalemate. The Blue Eagles then opened the floodgates by outscoring the Tamaraws, 33-17, in the second quarter. Ateneo eventually held a 49-33 lead at the end of the first half thanks to BJ Andrade who poured in 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field.
At the start of the fourth quarter, the Tamaraws were staring at a 65-48 deficit but they mounted an 11-2 run to trim the lead down to 13 with 7:30 minutes remaining. FEU eventually ran out of time to complete its comeback en route to absorbing the lopsided defeat which concluded its Season 84 campaign.
“I think the psychological side of things, the players handled it extremely well. They came out very focused today but I really want to give credit today to the assistant coaches,” said Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin. “Obviously, the players played very well but one thing you always know when you play FEU is you know Olsen [Racela] is going to have curveballs. He always does, he is a very good tactical coach… No matter what he does, this is where our assistant coaches step up.”
With the win, four out of Ateneo’s last five trips to the Finals have already come at the expense of eliminating FEU in the Final Four.
BJ Andrade bannered the Blue Eagles with 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field to go with three rebounds in 20:14 minutes of action.
The defending champions outscored their opponents 53-44 in terms of starter points and 32-28 in bench production. The Blue Eagles also maximized their presence in the shaded area after producing 44 points in the paint as compared to the Tamaraws’ 32.
RJ Abarrientos led FEU’s attack with 16 points, five rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Emman Ojuola put up 13 points, 14 rebounds, two steals, and an assist while Brandrey Bienes added 13 points, three rebounds, and an assist for the Tamaraws.
Ojuola and Bienies together with fellow FEU seniors Jason Li and Aevin Coquia have all played the final game of their respective UAAP careers after their loss to the Blue Eagles.
Ateneo will now await the winner between second-seed University of the Philippines and third-seed De La Salle University in their rubber match slated on Friday afternoon. The first game of the Finals will be held on Sunday, 4:00PM at SM MOA Arena.
Ateneo 85 – Andrade 16, Belangel 14, Mamuyac 12, Ildefonso 11, Kouame 9, Daves 9, Lazaro 4, Verano 3, Koon 3, Chiu 2, Tio 2, Padrigao 0.
FEU 72 – Abarrientos 16, Ojuola 13, Bienes 13, Gonzales 9, Sleat 6, Alforque 5, Tempra 4, Torres 3, Celzo 2, Sajonia 1, Coquia 0.
Quarterscores: 16-16, 49-33, 65-48, 85-72.