Ateneo leans on clutch Nieto and Go to make it back to the Finals

ADMU Blue Eagles 88 – FEU Tamaraws 84, ADMU advances to the Finals

This was a game for the ages. This matchup between the underdog FEU Tamaraws and the league-leading Ateneo Blue Eagles had everything, big runs, strong comebacks, clutch baskets and impossible shots. The Tamaraws gave the Blue Eagles everything they had and almost won the game behind Jasper Parker’s crunch time heroics. But the Blue Eagles were saved by their own heroes, Isaac Go and Matt Nieto.

After losing the first game because of a slow start, Ateneo made sure that they wouldn’t make the same mistake again. It seemed like they regained their championship form. They stifled the Tamaraws, only allowing them to scored five points in the first six minutes of the game. The Blue Eagles jumped out to a six-point lead after the first period.

Ateneo maintained control for most of the first half. But Parker was a blur that the Blue Eagles couldn’t contain. The speedy point guard repeatedly blew by defenders for drives. He led the Tamaraws on a slow climb back into the game. FEU took their time and slowly cut down the Ateneo lead in the third period. The Blue Eagles had a chance to pull away but their turnovers and missed free throws gave FEU additional chances to chip away at the lead. The Tamaraws were getting a hold of the momentum heading into the final period.

In the fourth quarter, FEU finally took control of the game. They opened the period with a 12-2 run. The Tamaraws took the lead on a Wendell Comboy corner three-pointer and they continued to charge from there. Prince Orizu scored on a fast break basket inside to give FEU a six-point lead. At that point, it seemed like the upset was for real. The FEU gallery was going berserk and the Blue Eagles couldn’t buy a basket.

After a quick timeout, the Blue Eagles composed themselves and went to work. Thirdy Ravena and Gian Mamuyac led them on a 7-2 run to get to within one point. Jasper Parker and Hubert Cani scored inside kept the lead on their side. With 40 seconds left in the game and the Tamaraws clinging on to a one-point lead, Arvin Tolentino tried to score the dagger basket. His shot was short and Ravena pushed the ball up the court for a coast-to-coast finish that gave Ateneo the lead.

In the end game, they went with their hot hand. Parker got the isolation against Matt Nieto on the right wing. He crossed over twice, the second one leading to a quick drive. He blew by Nieto and scored on the go-ahead layup to give FEU the lead. Nieto missed a close-range basket in the other end. Parker was fouled on the rebound and he hit two clutch freebies to give FEU a three-point lead with 14 seconds left.

That was enough time for Ateneo to still make a comeback. They ran a perfectly executed pick and pop play where Nieto found Go on the left wing. The big man pump faked once to get Ron Dennison out of the way before letting the game-tying three-point shot fly. Splash. The game was tied. FEU still had a chance to win the game but Tolentino fumbled the ball in his last attempt.

In overtime, the Blue Eagles came out strong, firmly taking a hold of the game. Nieto scored on a midrange pull-up jumper. Mamuyac came up big with a block on a Cani three-point attempt. Nieto then buried a cold-blooded three-pointer on Tolentino to give Ateneo a five-point lead.

Richard Escoto cut the lead down with a midrange jumper but Go answered right back with an improbable dagger. Nieto launched a desperation jumper to beat the shot clock but the shot missed. In the scramble for the ball, Go fell to the ground. As he was falling, he was able to collar the miss and throw up a shot from one knee that sealed the game.

Go and Nieto’s herioc performances in the end game ensured that the Blue Eagles would get their rematch against the Green Archers in the Finals.

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