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Yam’s 26 saves Ateneo as Lady Eagles punch Final Four berth

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All season long, Hazelle Yam was hesitant to take outside shots, knowing she isn’t the best three-point option of the Ateneo Lady Eagles.

But in a crucial, win-or-go-home affair, she had no time to think about percentages.

Yam focused on simply making big moments and the timing was perfect, as the guard steered the Lady Eagles in overtime to oust University of Santo Tomas, 64-53, on Wednesday, and punch the last ticket to the UAAP Season 78 women’s basketball tournament at the Blue Eagle Gym.

Yam knocked down back-to-back triples in overtime and added two more lay-ups in an unstoppable display, as the Lady Eagles went on a 10-0 run to bury the Tigresses.

UST were held scoreless for 3:47 before a Maica Cortes free throw broke the dry spell, but it was too late even as Danica Jose hit two more baskets in the end.

Ateneo avoided a huge meltdown as they blew a 16-point halftime advantage. Luckily for them, Yam delivered to hand the team their first semi-finals trip since Season 75.

Yam finished with a game-high 26 points, including 10 in extension, and grabbed 7 rebounds. The departing Jose was able to extend her career to at least one more game, contributing 15 points, 19 rebounds, and 4 blocked shots.

The Lady Eagles were previously swept by the Tigresses in both elimination round games, but started the playoff game with more intensity, as they limited the Tigresses to only 5 first quarter points.

Ateneo zoomed to a 33-17 lead by halftime, asserting dominance against UST, although the latter were able to bounce back after attacking the basket in the third period.

UST drew two quick fouls on Jose while Cara Buendia picked up her fourth personal foul in the same period, allowing UST to change the complexion of the match by going inside.

Bettina Penaflor and Cortes joined hands in a 10-2 run which brought the lead down to 33-25. Ateneo struggled on offense in the second half, and later in the fourth period, a Candice Magdaluyo triple and a Penaflor putback tied the game at 44 apiece.

Teams exchanged baskets towards the end of regulation. Yam gave Ateneo their final lead in regulation at 50-48, but a basket by Penaflor with only 4.7 seconds left knotted the count at 50-all. Penaflor then blocked Yam in the final play of regulation, forcing overtime.

That was when Yam took charge to lead Ateneo to a do-or-die battle against third-seeded University of the East on Saturday at the Araneta Coliseum.

Ateneo showed more control around the rim, scoring a 42-34 advantage in inside points and grabbing 61 rebounds. UST were limited to only 22.9 percent shooting all-game long.

Penaflor led UST with 18 points and 12 rebounds while Cortes added 10 points and 12 boards.

Scores:

Ateneo (64) – Yam 26, Jose 15, Go 11, Tomita 5, Buendia 2, Guytingco 2, Deacon 2, Lamar 1, Javier 0, Aseron 0, Nitorreda 0.

UST (53) – Penaflor 18, Cortes 10, Larosa 9, Magdaluyo 7, Brillante 4, Felisarta 4, Pernia 1, Jerez 0, Angeles 0, Isanan 0, Portillo 0, Capilit 0.

Quarterscores: 12-5, 31-15, 40-34, 50-50, 64-53.

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