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59-0 | NU edge Ateneo to get three wins closer to a sweep

NU Lady Bulldogs' Congolese center Rhena Itesi carried the defending champs to its  59th consecutive win at the expense of the Ateneo Lady Eagles.
By Kevin Estrada

PASAY CITY -- Reigning and defending three-peat queens National U gets closer to a return trip to the Finals for the fourth consecutive year Saturday noon at the Mall of Asia Arena.

However, they have to do it the hard way after Ateneo took the fight harder until the Lady Bulldogs eke out a close and wire-to-wire 60-49 win to notch their eleventh on the trot, and 59th straight overall.

NU almost had it in the bag on the opening quarter, but the Lady Eagles fought back hard in the middle quarters that set the stage for a frantic final two minutes where head coach Patrick Aquino was tossed in the stretch but ultimately kept their cool together in the endgame.

Congolese center Rhena Itesi shone once again as she posted a double-double of 17 points and 13 rebounds.

Combo guard Jhazmin Joson lead Ateneo's huge futile yet valiant fightback off the bench with 14 points and was two rebounds shy of a double-double.

The defending champions started like a house on fire, scoring the game's first ten points and even led by as much as 16 before settling for a fourteen-point lead at the end of the opening frame.

But Joson erupted in the following period as she reduced NU's lead to three at the half, firing 11 of the team's 17 second quarter points as they also had a lockdown defense on their own to limit the Lady Bulldogs to just 6 points.

NU then restored order somehow, winning the third by just a solitary point to lead by four.

But that was just the tip of the iceberg in the fourth, with NU landing big shots but failed to find the knockout blow, with Ateneo came to within two twice.

Aquino was ejected with 3:38 left for two quick technical fouls while leading by five, 49-44.

However, Ateneo just ran out of steam as well that doomed their chances when Tina Deacon fouled out with 3:10 to go.

With Deacon's graduation, Itesi went on takeover mode, scoring seven out of NU's last eleven points to put the Lady Eagles away for good.

The Scores

NU 60 -- Itesi 17, Nabalan 12, Antiquiera 10, Animam 7, Del Carmen 7, Cacho 5, Sison 2, Ano-os 0, Harada 0, Ceño 0, Camelo 0

Ateneo -- Go 14, Joson 14, Deacon 6, Yam 6, Cancio 3, Guytingco 2, Morelos 2, Villamor 2, Buendia 0, Newsome 0, Uy De Ong 0

Quarter Scores: 19-5, 25-22, 41-37, 60-49

Follow him on Twitter: @KevinLEstrada