League-leading Ateneo survived a stiff challenge from a very game Adamson squad to win, 79-72, and clinch a seat in the final four of UAAP Season 75 Sunday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Nico Salva sizzled with 24 points on 11-of-14 shooting from the field, alongside four rebounds and four assists while center Greg Slaughter finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds as the Blue Eagles kept their place on top of the standings with a 10-2 mark.
The Falcons led 59-55 at the end of three quarters and even held a slim 68-66 lead with under six minutes to play in the fourth quarter. But Ateneo finished the game on an 11-4 run, including eight points from Salva, to seal the win.
Eric Camson hit six triples en route to a game-high 26 points in a losing cause. He hit his last one with 3:48 remaining, giving Adamson their last taste of the lead, 71-70.
He had a chance to push the lead up further, but missed both of his attempts at the charity stripe at the 3:20 mark.
Salva then hit a jumper to swing the lead back Ateneo’s way and Kiefer Ravena added a pair of free throws to give the Blue Eagles a 74-71 lead. Roider Cabrera made one of two attempts at the line as the Falcons came to within two, 74-72.
Coming off of a tough upset loss to UE last Thursday, the Blue Eagles made sure the result would be different this time.
After a Ravena free throw made it 75-72, with 1:49 left, Salva added another crucial basket when he squared up for a long jumper, a shot that had been falling all game long for him, then sent his defender flying with a pump fake. He drove down the lane and scored to give Ateneo a 77-72 advantage.
Ravena, who finished with 15 points in the game, then grabbed a big steal at the halfcourt line and finished with an easy layup to seal the win for the Blue Eagles.
“We executed a lot better in this game. We actually had good looks at the basket against UE but we couldn’t make them. It wasn’t like we weren’t getting good shots, they just wouldn’t go in,” said Ateneo coach Norman Black. “Tonight, Nico’s shots were falling for us, particularly in the fourth quarter.”
“But the biggest difference between the UE game and this game was probably our teamwork. The ball movement was much better, the players were sharing the basketball, and the players were all interested in one thing and that’s winning the basketball game,” he added.
Starters Juami Tiongson and Ryan Buenafe combined for just six points, but finished with 11 assists between them.
“Every loss is a wakeup call for us. It reminds us that we aren’t there yet,” said Salva. “We have to continue working and continue pushing.”
Adamson dropped down to 2-10 for the season.
Ateneo (79) – Salva 24, Slaughter 16, Ravena 15, Elorde 10, Chua 6, Tiongson 3, Buenafe 3, Sumalinog 1, Erram 1, Gonzaga 0, Golla 0.
Adamson (72) – Camson 26, Cruz 14, Cabrera 10, Brondial 8, Monteclaro 8, Rios 4, Etrone 2, Trollano 0, Petilos 0, Agustin 0.
Quarterscores: 21-25, 38-38, 55-59, 79-72.
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