SJ BELANGEL scored 31 points and took charge in the clutch as Ateneo swept the elimination round with a 78-68 win over National University on Sunday at the Blue Eagle Gym.
Belangel scored 16 in a crucial endgame rally as the Blue Eaglets finished with a 14-0 record in the UAAP Season 80 juniors basketball eliminations.
The Blue Eaglets clinched an automatic berth in the finals, and will face the top team in the stepladder phase which will begin next week.
Ateneo is making a return to the finals after three years. The Blue Eaglets captured the Season 77 crown in the 2014-2015 campaign.
“SJ carried us today,” said Ateneo coach Joe Silva.
Ateneo was down, 61-57, but Belangel singlehandedly brought the Blue Eaglets back with 11 straight points, capped off by a triple to tie the game and a lay-up off a steal that gave his team a 70-68 lead.
Belangel finished off the Bullpups with a triple for a 76-68 lead in the dying seconds.
Things looked bleak for the Blue Eaglets when the Bullpups opened the fourth with 10 straight points to grab a 60-55 lead.
Dave Ildefonso had 16 points, while Kai Sotto had 10 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks for the Blue Eaglets.
Miguel Oczon tallied 17 points and spearheaded NU’s rally in the third to come to within five points, 55-50.
The Bullpups ended the eliminations with an 11-3 record, and will hold a twice-to-beat advantage against Far Eastern University, Adamson or University of Santo Tomas.
Adamson and UST will figure in a knockout game for the No. 4 spot on Wednesday at the Blue Eagle Gym.
Standings: Ateneo 14-0, NU 11-3, FEU 8-6, Adamson 7-7, DLSZ 4-10, UPIS 3-11, UE 2-12.
Ateneo 78 - Belangel 31, Ildefonso 16, Credo 11, Sotto 10, Manuel 8, Angeles 2, Escalona 0, Chiu 0, David 0.
NU 68 - Oczon 17, Amsali 13, Fortea 9, Gonzales 7, Malonzo 7, Javillonar 5, Minerva 5, Manalang 3, Coyoca 2, Pangilinan 0, Pradella 0.
Quarterscores: 18-14; 40-30; 55-50; 78-68.