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Aroga's block saves the day for fourth-seeded Bulldogs as they enter UAAP Finals

Alfred Aroga hugged Coach Eric Altamirano after their NU Bulldogs
entered the UAAP Finals. Ivan Saldajeno
By Mark Castro

National University completed a sweep of its UAAP Final Four series against Ateneo with a 65-63 win at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.

A defensive gem by Alfred Aroga proved fatal for the Bulldogs as they, the fourth-seeds, trumped the top-seeded Blue Eagles for the first seat in the Finals.

After a close first quarter, NU used an 11-2 run to open a 25-13 lead with 6:02 left in the second.

But the Blue Eagles fought back through a 9-1 rally to cut the lead to four, 26-22, later in the period.

NU uncorked another 6-0 run to push the lead back to ten, 32-22.

But Ateneo ended the second with five straight points to cut the edge again to five at halftime, 32-27.

The Ateneo run continued early in the third as an 8-3 start trimmed NU's lead further to one, 36-35.

The Blue Eagles finally got the lead as four straight points from Von Pessumal gave them a 47-46 advantage entering the fourth.

Ateneo increased the lead to three, 53-50, after baskets from Chris Newsome, Kiefer Ravena, and Vince Tolentino.

But five straight points courtesy of Glenn Khobuntin and Gelo Alolino gave NU the lead again, 55-53, with 5:44 left in the match.

Two charities from Ravena tied the game anew at 55 apiece.

But Aroga scored inside to retake the lead for NU, 57-55.

After two more free throws from Nico Elorde that equalized the match anew, Khobuntin answered with his own layup to give the Bulldogs a 59-57 edge with 4:01 to go.

Five straight Blue Eagle points pushed then back in the lead, 63-60, with 2:22 remaining.

But Alolino caught fire as he knocked down a triple to tie the game, 63-all, with 2:02 left.

After an Ateneo miss in the next play, Troy Rosario had a chance to give NU the lead again.

Rosario, however, missed two free throws after a foul.

Both teams played tremendous defense on each other, forcing misses.

Alolino, however, got fouled by Elorde while driving for a layup.

Alolino made two go-ahead free throws to give the Bulldogs a 65-63 lead with 9.3 seconds left.

The game, however, took a ten-minute delay after inclement weather led to power interruption.

At the resumption of play, Ravena penetrated to the rim for a layup.

But Aroga blocked Ravena's shot, and Elorde could not make a follow-up in time.

Aroga had a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds along with two blocks including the game-saving gem to lead NU, which became only the second fourth-seeded team to beat the top-seeded team in the Final Four.

The victory exacted NU's revenge of last year's meltdown after the team, the number one team, lost to number four team UST in the semis.

Chris Newsome led Ateneo with 22 points on 10/15 shooting, six rebounds, two assists, three blocks, and a steal.

NU's defense once again snared Ravena as he was limited to 6/24 shooting for 18 points.

Box Scores:

NU 65-Aroga 14, Alolino 12, Khobuntin 11, Rosario 9, Javelona 8, Neypes 4, Diputado 3, Alejandro 2, Perez 2, Betayene 0, Atangan 0

Ateneo 63-Newsome 22, K. Ravena 18, Elorde 8, Pessumal 8, Babilonia 4, V. Tolentino 2, Gotladera 1, Capacio 0, A. Tolentino 0, Apacible 0

Quarterscores: 12-8, 32-27, 47-46, 65-63
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