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Ateneo pulls away late to subdue UP to go one win away to sweep

Matt Nieto and Ateneo are just a win away from a trip to the Finals.
By Kevin Estrada


Ateneo De Manila inched closer in the UAAP men's basketball Finals after subduing UP in a gritty Battle of Katipunan rematch, 96-82 Wednesday evening at the Araneta Coliseum.

It took a 33-point blast in the payoff period for Tab Baldwin's Blue Eagles for them to pull away from a close affair in the first 36 minutes to notch their 13th consecutive triumph ahead of their rematch with eternal enemies La Salle Sunday afternoon.

Matt Nieto and Isaac Go were the main culprits in the final frame, pitching in seven points apiece en route to 19 and 13 markers respectively.

Go's 13 were also vital as it immensly contributed to a total of 47 Ateneo bench points, outscoring their northern rivals by eighteen.

Freshman guard Juan Gomez De Liaño led all scorers with 21 for the now 5-8 Fighting Maroons whose postseason hopes hinge on their final game with NU on Saturday.

With the postseason hopes alive after the Bulldogs defeated FEU earlier, UP took Ateneo head on at the start of the game in a shootout, in which the Fighting Maroons barely lead by a point at the end of the first.

In a wild see-saw encounter, both sides saw themselves on level terms seven times and have leads exchanged hands for fourteen more instances before State emerged afloat with a six-point cushion at the break.

UP then led by as much as by a dozen after opening the third with six straight points, but Ateneo ignited a huge fightback to reduce it to a solitary point entering the pay-off period.

The Blue Eagles then opened the final frame with a 16-4 blast to lead by 11 before State U fought back to level the game at 79 with 4:11 left thanks to Javi Gomez de Liaño's freebies.

With its on-court calmness put to the ultimate test, Ateneo then pulled away in the final four minutes in a 17-3 reply to put the pesky UP side away, punctuated by scoring the last 9 points of the game.

The Scores: 

Ateneo 96 -- Matt Nieto 19, Go 13, Mamuyac 13, Ravena 10, Tolentino 10, Mike Nieto 9, Verano 8, Ikeh 6, Asistio 4, Mendoza 4, Black 0, Tio 0

UP 82 -- Juan Gomez de Liaño 21, Desiderio 16, Manzo 13, Dario 8, Javi Gomez de Liaño 7, Lim 4, Quattara 3, Jaboneta 3, Lao 2, Romero 2, Webb 2, Prado 1, Ricafort 0, Vito 0, Harris 0

Quarter scores: 22-23, 42-48, 63-64, 96-82

Follow him on Twitter: @KevinLEstrada