NATIONAL University and Ateneo – past and present UAAP junior champions – forged another title showdown by downing their semis rivals in the 2nd PCABL Jumbo Plastic Linoleum Cup at the Philippine Buddhacare Academy gym in Quezon City.
The top-seeded NU Bullpups, who completed an eight-game sweep of the elims, clinched the first final berth with a 77-68 come-from-behind win over last year’s champions Chiang Kai Shek College Blue Dragons – thanks to the heroics of Daniel Atienza.
The Ateneo Eaglets, on the other hand, secured the right to face their elimination round tormentors in the one-game final by pulling off a 76-63 win over the Far Eastern University Baby Tamaraws in the tournament also backed by Smart Telecom, Advance Solutions Inc., Hapee Toothpaste, Fed Seal, Powerhouse, CW Home Depot and Powerbest Marketing.
The winner-take-all match on Saturday will give both NU and Ateneo the opportunity to gauge each other before their projected title clash in the UAAP.
John Clemente once again led the Bullpups with 18 markers but it was Atienza who delivered the game-changing plays as he scored 11 of his 16 points in the payoff period.
Two other NU players scored in double figures with Justin Baltazar and Rhayyan Amsali chipping in 14 and 10 points, respectively.
The Ateneo-FEU match was marked by two deadlocks and 11 lead changes until Jolo Mendoza and Gian Mamuyac came through with huge plays that finally put away the challenge of the Baby Tamaraws.
A former member of the Philippine Under-16 team, Mendoza led the Eaglets with 14 points while Mamuyac added nine points, including five in the payoff period.