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Alejandro explodes as Bulldogs beat Blue Eagles in historic playoff win

The fourth-seeded NU Bulldogs lived to fight another day after trouncing
the top-seeded Ateneo Blue Eagles in their UAAP Final Four game. Ivan Saldajeno 
By Ivan Saldajeno

J-Jay Alejandro stood out as the NU Bulldogs canceled the Ateneo Blue Eagles' twice-to-beat advantage with a 78-74 win in their UAAP semifinal tie at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.

Alejandro, a former RP Youth Team member, made all but one of his field goals with three triples for a UAAP career-best 20 points along with four assists in a game the fourth-seeded Bulldogs almost lost.

NU, which led for most of the game, was up, 68-53, with 8:03 left in the match.

But Ateneo, the top seed entering the Final Four, unleashed a 10-0 run to cut the lead to five, 68-63, with a little over three minutes left.

Gelo Alolino ended the Bulldogs' scoreless drought with a split from the line to put them back up by six.

Chris Newsome continued the Blue Eagles with a three-point play to put them to within three.

Alejandro went 1-of-2 in his own trip to the stripe to extend NU's lead to four.

But Kiefer Ravena buried a three-pointer on the other end to cut the lead to one, 70-69.

The late free throw mini-woe continued for the Bulldogs as Henri Betayene also split his charities to increase their lead to two, 71-69.

Nico Elorde finally gave Ateneo the lead, 72-71, after shooting a triple with 1:14 remaining.

But Alejandro, after a Ravena foul, made two free throws on the other end to retake the lead for NU, 73-72, with 59.3 seconds left.

Ravena tried to give the Blue Eagles the advantage anew, but he misfired a tough fallaway and Alolino secured the rebound.

Alolino converted his charities to extend the Bulldogs' lead to three, 75-72.

Newsome made a quick basket to cut NU's lead to one, leaving 23.7 seconds on the clock.

Alolino, who took some time before attempting his free throws, went 2-of-2 at the line put NU up by three again with 22.5 seconds left.

Ravena missed a potential game-tying shot from beyond the arc, and Betayene sealed NU's win, its first ever in the Final Four, with a free throw.

Alolino added 16 points, three rebounds, two assists, and a steal for the Bulldogs, who forced a rubber match on Wednesday.

Alfred Aroga and Troy Rosario combined for 26 of NU's 48 total rebounds in the game.

Ravena led the Blue Eagles, who are now 0-3 against the Bulldogs this year and 0-5 all-time with Bo Perasol as coach, with 24 markers, 15 coming in the fourth, six boards, and three dimes.

Ravena, however, needed 35 attempts to score that much points.

Box Scores:

NU 78-Alejandro 20, Alolino 16, Khobuntin 12, Aroga 11, Rosario 6, Diputado 5, Javelona 4, Neypes 2, Betayene 2, Perez 0

Ateneo 74-K. Ravena 24, Newsome 14, Elorde 12, Pessumal 7, Capacio 6, A. Tolentino 6, Gotladera 3, K. Ravena 2, Babilonia 0, Doliguez 0 Porter 0

Quarterscores: 24-14, 44-32, 60-50, 78-74
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