ATENEO romped past Far Eastern University, 84-68, on Wednesday to keep alive its title-retention bid in the UAAP Season 78 juniors basketball tournament at the Filoil Flying V Arena.
The Blue Eaglets leaned on the trio of SJ Belangel, Jolo Mendoza, and Gian Mamuyac in securing a place in the next round of the stepladder playoffs.
Ateneo will face De La Salle-Zobel in the next round of the stepladder and will need to win twice in order to make a return trip to the finals.
The Junior Archers, led by season Most Valuable Player Aljun Melecio, gained a twice-to-beat advantage in the stepladder playoffs after finishing second after the elimination round.
Ateneo faces La Salle on Monday, 9 a.m. A knockout game, if necessary, will be played on Friday, 2 p.m.
National University swept the elimination round to clinch a thrice-to-beat advantage in the title series.
“FEU fought till the end but the boys just wanted it more,” said Ateneo coach Joe Silva.
“It’s a good springboard for our climb. We have to beat La Salle twice but we have to do it one game at a time.”
Belangel had 15 points and eight assists, while Mendoza finished with 14 points including two triples.
Mamuyac added 13 points, making 3 of 5 shots from three-point range.
The Blue Eaglets went on a 10-0 run in the third period on baskets by Mendoza and Mamuyac before a 9-0 blast in the same quarter led by Belangel gave them their biggest lead of the game, 61-40.
It was a wire-to-wire win, but the Blue Eaglets appeared vulnerable in the first half.
A 9-2 run, however, put Ateneo in front, 35-24, near the end of the second quarter.
Ateneo was also outrebounded in the first half, 21-17, with FEU grabbing 11 offensive boards.
“I just told them, no rebounds, no rings. Pat Riley told that before. We are not going to win that championship. The big guys were boxing out, the guards were getting the rebounds,” said Silva.
Kenji Roman had 21 points and 13 rebounds for the Baby Tamaraws.
Ateneo 84 — Belangel 15, Mendoza 14, Mamuyac 13, Berjay 9, Eustaquio 9, Andrade 8, Credo 6, S. Ildefonso 5, Gatmaytan 2, Bernardo 2, D. Ildefonso 0, David 0, Soriano 0.
FEU 68 — Roman 21, Gloria 13, Sapinit 11, Jabel 9, Gonzales 8, Bieren 2, Boc 2, Torres 2, Gabane 0, Celzo 0, Belgica 0, Mariano 0, Garcia 0, Ramos 0.
Quarterscores: 20-14; 35-28; 63-47; 84-68.