SAN JUAN – FEU just pulled off a Houdini in the most opportune time.
With Rhon Abarrientos burying a dagger three with 47 seconds to go, and pulling off a key defensive stop, Far Eastern U-Diliman snatched the last twice-to-beat slot in the Final Four, nosing out Ateneo, 64-62, in the final play-off game of the UAAP LXXIX Junior’s basketball tournament Thursday Feb. 9 at the FilOil-Flying V Centre.
The Diliman-based squad completed a comeback behind the clutch performances of Abarrientos and Louell Gonzales to shake off a horrendous first half and avenge its painful loss against the team from Katipunan six days ago.
FEU tied the game at 58 inside the final three minutes. RV Berjay and SJ Belangel then scored back-to-back hits for a four-point ADMU cushion, 62-58.
That set the stage for the amazing FEU escape.
Louell Gonzales hit two free throws off a Kai Sotto foul on the 1:19 mark of the quarter, before finding a wide open Abarrientos from the left corner for the dagger triple to give FEU a one-point advantage.
Ateneo made one last crack for the lead, but Belangel was slapped with an offensive foul on Jun Gabane, sealing the Eaglets’ demise.
Jack Gloria led the Baby Tamaraws with a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds with three steals, while Abarrientos, nephew of PBA legend Johnny contributed 10 points, five boards, and four assists.
Kenji Roman was the third Tamaraw in twin-digits with 10 and eight boards.
Belangel led the Eaglets with 23 points, six rebounds, four assists, and three steals before fouling out. Joaquin Mariano added 13, even as Berjay and Dave Ildefonso both scored 10.
The Baby Tamaraws and Eaglets will meet again in the Final Four starting Tuesday next week.
FEU-Diliman 64—Gloria 14, Abarrientos 10, Roman 10, Celzo 9, Sapinit 7, Gonzales 6, Gabene 6, Sevilla 2, Torres 0, Jabel 0, Ro. Alforque 0, Baclay 0, Bieren 0, Ra. Alforque 0.
Ateneo 62—Belangel 23, Manuel 13, Ildefonso 10, Berjay 10, Credo 2, Sotto 2, Escalona 2, Salazar 0, Angeles 0.
Quarterscores: 6-20, 24-37, 45-49, 64-62.