As expected, Ateneo seals No. 1 slot after dismantling FEU

Raffy Verano by Ateneo.  UAAP PHOTO

Raffy Verano by Ateneo. UAAP PHOTO

Ateneo has hit a milestone obscured by the way it has dominated UAAP over the past two seasons. On Thursday, the Blue Eagles wrapped up the No. 1 spot in the Season 84 men’s basketball tournament.

Not that someone is asking – or even wondering.

With the way they create victories, Ateneo has been likened to an indestructible super machine for the whole season. But Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin reminds everyone that behind that amazing performance, the Eagles are still a group of “young guys playing the game they love.”

Even Far Eastern University’s (FEU) 6-1 start at the Mall of Asia Arena could not make Ateneo doubt that Ateneo would become the top seed to reach the quarterfinals of the tournament.

And it will certainly take a long time for anyone to believe that the Eagles will lift this season’s trophy to Katipunan.

They won in 13th place and needed just one more win to get through the qualifying stage, secure a place in the Finals outright and push the remaining three semi-finalists into a series of ladder matches.

Overall, the Eagles have won 39 games in a row, after the last defeat at the hands of Tamaraws himself in 2018. There will be no repeat of that loss when Dave Ildefonso and Tyler Tio consecutive three points into the net. making it a 15-9 Ateneo advantage only gets bigger as the game progresses.

“I have to say frankly that they defended us hard,” said Baldwin, who described the match as a “very physical match” worthy of a review by league officials.

It was the Eagles defense, however, that unforgivably limited the FEU to the season’s worst 25% shooting throughout the game. Tamaraws also struggled from the three-point lane, making just five of 23 attempts from outside the arc.

“Unfortunately for them, they didn’t take the shot, some days it is,” added Baldwin, whose team will be No. two is definitely the University of the Philippines.

Earlier, La Salle won the right to advance to the next round after a 64-51 victory over Adamson.

The archers nailed their eighth win in 13 matches with plenty of help from explosive Fil-Am bodyguards Deschon Winston and Kurt Lojera.

Winston scored 19 points, while Lojera added 10 for La Salle, who thwarted the Falcons’ only legitimate scoring threat, Jerom Lastimosa. The keeper only scored 11 points.

“Our immediate goal [after a two-game losing spell] La Salle coach Derick Pumaren said. “So difficult. But it’s not over yet. We couldn’t be overjoyed to have made it to the Finals. We don’t stop here, we want to go on and win.”

Adamson managed to keep a close eye on La Salle in the early hours, ending the first half with a 43 all-time score until the Archers applied their defensive approach to repel the Falcons flight.

In the first game, National University (NU) continued its efforts to win the right to the next round by defeating Oriental University with a score of 100-81. Enzo Joson and Shaun Ildefonso scored 15 and 12 points respectively in the Bulldogs’ sixth win in 13 games.

The Bulldogs and Tamaraws are currently in fourth place and have just one game left each in qualifying. However, the FEU had a foot in the Final Four. Tamaraws faced the University of Santo Tomas in their final match, while NU had to fight La Salle.

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