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Ateneo secures Final Four spot by defeating Adamson in UAAP men’s playoff

MANILA, Philippines — Defending Ateneo caught the bus last ride to the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball Final Four, eliminating Adamson with a wire-to-wire 70-48 victory on Wednesday at Mall of Asia Arena.

It may have been the first time for the Blue Eagles to compete in a playoff for No.4 but the Tab Baldwin-coached squad displayed grace under pressure to reach the Final Four and keep their title-retention bid alive.

Rookie Jared Brown rose to the occasion in a do-or-die game as he scored 14 of his 20 points in the first half to set the tone for Ateneo’s lopsided win — the biggest winning margin in a playoff game.

“We kind of got some freedom in the first half, especially Jared shot the ball well and, you know, getting 40 points against an Adamson team in a half is really good effort,” said Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin on Brown, who shot 4-of-7 from beyond the arc to go with four rebounds and four assists.

“But we knew that in the third quarter particularly we were going to have to dig in and to be somebody different than we’ve been. And I think that was reflected in our defense and in our rebounding and that carried over into the fourth quarter,” he added.

Jaren Brown leads Ateneo Blue Eagles to the Final Four. –MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

The Blue Eagles forge a Final Four duel with the twice-to-beat University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons, their finals rivals for the past two seasons, on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Ateneo is entering the Final Four as a fourth seed for the first time in history against UP, which clinched its best record with a 12-2 record.

Sean Quitevis also delivered the goods for the Blue Eagles with 11 points, three rebounds, and two assists. Mason Amos chipped in 10 points. Kai Ballungay had seven points, seven rebounds, and four assists, while Joseph Obasa added four points and 16 rebounds.

Ateneo dominated Adamson right from the get-go with an 8-0 start and led as many as 25 points after Ian Espinosa’s triple at the final 53.4-second mark for a 70-45 margin.

“I guess, probably on the scoreboard, you know, maybe it didn’t look like a tough game in the end. But it was very tough game, it always is with Adamson,” said Baldwin.

Graduating Jerom Lastimosa, who was fielded by Adamson one last time amid his ACL injury, beat the buzzer with a trey to end his UAAP career as the Soaring Falcons’ season was also concluded, failing to return to the Final Four for the second straight year.

No one from Adamson scored in double figures with Matt Erolon leading the way with nine points. Didat Hanapi had eight points and four rebounds.

The scores:

Ateneo (70) – Brown 20, Quitevis 11, Amos 10, Ballungay 7, Bongo 4, Obasa 4, Koon 3, Nieto 3, Credo 3, Espinosa 3, Lazaro 2, Chiu 0, Gamber 0, Tuano 0.

AdU (48) – Erolon 9, Hanapi 8, Calisay 5, Manzano 4, Yerro 4, Montebon 4, Sabandal 4, Magbuhos 3, Lastimosa 3, Barasi 2, Ramos 2, Colonia 0, Ojarikre 0, Cañete 0, Barcelona 0, Anabo 0.

Quarterscores: 24-15, 40-25, 56-39, 70-48