The University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons provided challenges in the third and fourth quarter.
But the defending champion Ateneo Blue Eagles hurdled most of them to stay unbeaten last Wednesday in the 80th University Athletic Association of the Philippines men’s basketball tournament at the Araneta Coliseum.
Matt Nieto shot 19 points for the Blue Eagles as they held off the Fighting Maroons, 96-82, and moved a game closer to a 14-game sweep.
Nieto’s back-to-back hits in the opening minute of the last period gave the Blue Eagles the lead for good en route to their 13th win in as many games.
“It was a tough game. It was a challenging game. We were challenged from the start,” said Blue Eagles coach Sandy Arespacochaga as they stayed on track for an outright finals seat.
Juan Gomez de Liano banged in 21 points for the Fighting Maroons, including three triples that kept UP in the thick of the fight.
De Liano’s split charity and trey with 1:27 left saw UP moving away from a 42-all tie, and into a 48-42 edge at the end of the third.
When the fourth period came, Nieto baskets allowed Ateneo to take a 69-66 edge with 8:42 remaining.
Isaac Go struck with 13 points with Gian Mamuyac, and the 6’7 stepped in the last 6:43.
His assist to Raffy Verano, a free throw and two three-pointers in the last 5:58 did the trick for Ateneo.
Ateneo went on to enjoy a 79-68 advantage afterward, and at the cost of UP losing Ibrahim Outtara to five fouls.
And the Blue Eagles continued to stay in control after one of their key players, Jun Manzo, also fouled out in the last 1:38.
The Blue Eagles’ game with their arch-rival, the La Salle Green Archers, is only stumbling left in their bid to get an outright finals berth via a 14-game sweep of the eliminations.
ATENEO 96 – Nieto Ma 19, Go 13, Mamuyac 13, Ravena 10, Tolentino 10, Nieto Mi 9, Verano 8, Ikeh 6, Asistio 4, Mendoza 4, Tio 0, Black 0
UP 82 – Gomez de Liano Ju 21, Desiderio 16, Manzo 13, Dario 8, Gomez de Liano Ja 7, Lim 4, Ouattara 3, Jaboneta 3, Webb 2, Romero 2, Lao 2, Prado 1, Vito 0, Ricafort 0, Harris 0
QUARTER SCORES: 22-23, 42-48, 63-64, 96-82
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