UAAP: Ateneo ends 3-game skid, eliminates UST

Ateneo’s Kai Ballungay against UST in the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball tournament.–UAAP PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — Defending champion Ateneo rediscovered its winning ways after ousting the University of Santo Tomas, 67-59, to keep its Final Four hopes alive in the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball tournament on Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

But the Blue Eagles needed to weather a second-half fight by the Growling Tigers, who went on a 10-2 run sparked by a Kenji Duremdes three-point play to pull within six, 59-53, with 2:44 remaining.

Raffy Celis, who was a revelation off the bench for Ateneo, as well as Mason Amos and Chris Koon hit timely baskets with a minute left as the Blue Eagles put a stop on their first three-game skid in 10 years and officially pulled the plug on the Tigers’ campaign.

“We’re happy to end that losing streak, that’s for sure. I was really pleased today with our defense, we did a good job on Nic (Cabañero). He’s just a handful to try and defend. And, to hold him down to 16, on 33 percent shooting is a pretty good job,” said Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin.

“The other end of the ball, we just didn’t shoot the ball well. I thought we generated a lot of good shots, the more we missed, the more UST was determined to stick to the zone and the saving grace was really our offensive rebounding,” he added. “Raffy had a chance to get out there and gave us nine offensive rebounds which was pretty extraordinary and did some other good things on offense.”

Celis Ateneo UAAP

Ateneo’s Raffy Celis was a spark off the bench against UST.–MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

It was an offensive struggle for Ateneo especially in the third quarter where the Eagles shot just 3-of-22 from the field.

Kai Ballungay propelled the Blue Eagles with 15 points and 14 rebounds. Chris Koon chipped in 12 points, six rebounds, and three assists while Jared Brown added 10 points as they rose to a 5-6 record iin solo fifth place as of posting time.

“Despite everything that’s happened, I think our focus as a team is to stay together. At this point moving forward, we can only control what we can control. One of those things, like coach said, this week, was accountability. Everyone has their job and if everyone does their job, we’ll get the [win],” said Ballungay.

Celis, a recruit from Sacred Heart School Ateneo de Cebu, provided a much-needed boost with eight points and 11 rebounds, nine offensive boards to make the most of his extended 16 minutes.

“I think I gave my best and I’m happy that coach trusted me, I gave my 100 percent to contribute. We focused and we did our job individually,” said Celis.

UST became the first team to be ousted in the Final Four after absorbing its 10th loss in 11 games. The Tigers missed the playoffs for the third straight season.

Nic Cabañero still came away with a game-high 16 points on top of 10 rebounds, seven assists and three steals. Migs Pangilinan contributed 13 points, while Duremdes had nine points and nine rebounds.

The scores:

Ateneo (67) – Ballungay 15, Koon 12, Brown 10, Amos 8, Celis 8, Obasa 7, Nieto 3, Quitevis 2, Chiu 2, Credo 0, Lazaro 0, Espinosa 0, Gomez 0.

UST (59) – Cabañero 16, Pangilinan 13, Duremdes 9, Manalang 6, Magdangal 5, Laure 4, Llemit 3, Manaytay 2, Calum 1, Crisostomo 0, Moore 0, Gesalem 0, Lazarte 0.



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Quarterscores: 22-12, 43-29, 50-43, 67-59

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