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Ateneo defeats La Salle to clinch Final Four berth

The Ateneo Blue Eagles clinched a Final Four berth after reasserting their mastery over archrivals De La Salle Green Archers, 77-69, in the UAAP Season 82 men's basketball tournament Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Ateneo continued its unbeaten streak and rose to 10-0 while sending La Salle to a tie with FEU for fourth place at 4-5. The defending champions have now won 20 straight games dating back to last year.

"That was a good game of basketball. In the first half, we looked more nervous than La Salle did. I thought they looked very composed and sure of themselves in understanding what they wanted to do," said Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin.

Adrian Wong caught fire and delivered 18 points on 4-for-7 shooting from downtown. Thirdy Ravena added 13 points and seven rebounds. Angelo Kouame churned out a double-double of 10 points and 14 boards.

"I think if Adrian doesn't come out hot, we're in trouble in the first half," admitted Baldwin. "Fortunately he did, and it's another example of somebody in the roster stepping up and having a good game when it was needed."

Wong found his groove early, scoring 11 points in the first two periods to help carry his team to a good start.

Ateneo built a 10-point lead after SJ Belangel's 3-point shot midway through the second quarter. La Salle, however, made a strong push, highlighted by three straight baskets from Encho Serrano, to inch within four before Ravena extended it to 36-30 by halftime.

The Green Archers came close and got within three points late in the third but a 7-0 surge in the final frame pushed the Blue Eagles back to a double-digit advantage.

La Salle kept knocking on the door but Ateneo's defense was simply too much to handle in the closing stretch. Wong knocked down a 3 in the last two minutes that made it a 13-point ballgame before sealing the victory with three free throws in the dying seconds.

Five Green Archers produced double-digits output in the loss, led by Serrano's 15 and Baltazar's 12.

THE SCORES

ATENEO 77 -- Wong 18, Ravena 13, Kouame 10, Navarro 9, Mamuyac 6, Belangel 5, Mi. Nieto 5, Daves 3, Ma. Nieto 3, Tio 3, Go 2.

LA SALLE 69 -- Serrano 15, Baltazar 12, Caracut 11, Malonzo 10, Melecio 10, Manuel 7, Bartlett 2, Bates 2, Lojera 0.

Quarters: 19-15, 36-30, 55-50, 77-69.

EXTRA DRIBBLES

- Ateneo has prevailed in the last five rivalry showdown with La Salle. The Green Archers last won in Game 2 of the Season 80 finals.

- Jamie Malonzo was held scoreless in the first half but he still managed to finish with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Andrei Caracut also found his touch in the last two periods, where he got nine of his 11 points.

- Despite the win, Blue Eagles coach Tab Baldwin said he was unhappy about the 39 points that they gave up in the second half.

NEXT GAMES

Ateneo - October 16 (Wednesday) vs FEU at the MOA Arena

La Salle - October 16 (Wednesday) vs UE at the MOA Arena