Blue Eagles barely escape past hard-fighting Maroons to clinch playoff for Final Four berth
Kiefer Ravena uncharacteristically missed two free throws for Ateneo in the dying seconds that left the door open for a University of the Philippines win. Jerome Ascano

ATENEO got a huge sigh of relief as it barely escaped past University of the Philippines, 70-69, on Wednesday in Season 77 of the UAAP men’s basketball tournament at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

Mikee Reyes missed two free throws with 0.8 seconds left that would have completed an upset by the lowly Maroons over the highly-favored Blue Eagles.

Instead, Ateneo improved its record to 9-3 to take second place and clinch at least a playoff for a Final Four berth.

“I don’t know how to phrase this,” said a stunned Ateneo coach Bo Perasol. “I’m not happy with how we won. I’ve spoken about how UP had improved a lot in the second round. The fact is a lot of us were thinking that we can just coast against UP that is why we didn’t expect them to comeback.”

The Eagles were noticeably experimenting with several combinations in preparation for the bigger games ahead, a ploy that that nearly cost them the win.

Kiefer Ravena had a chance to clinch the win early for Ateneo, but the star guard missed two free throws with 10 seconds left, leaving the Eagles clinging to a one-point lead.

Reyes was then fouled by Chris Newsome with 0.8 seconds remaining for an outright two free throws that would virtually give UP the victory.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be as Reyes missed both foul shots.

Reyes, who finished with 19 points, was responsible for the Maroons’ comeback as he nailed a triple that capped off a 5-0 run for a 70-69 lead.

Rookie Diego Dario had a chance to give UP the lead but missed a short jumper in the final minute.

The Maroons, who last won against the Eagles in 2009, lost their 11th game in 12 outings.

Ravena had 18 points, while Nico Elorde added 12 for the Eagles.


The scores

Ateneo (70) -- K. Ravena 18, Elorde 12, A. Tolentino 8, Babilonia 8. T. Ravena 8, Newsome 4, Pessumal 4, Doliguez 2, Javellosa 2, Porter 0, Capacio 0, V. Tolentino 0, Asistio 0, Apacible 0, Gotladera 0, Lim 0.

UP (69) -- Reyes 19, Gallarza 18, Dario 13, Moralde 11, Vito 2, Lao 2, Asilum 2, Juruena 2, Gingerich 0, Harris 0, Bederi 0.

Quarterscores: 16-15; 29-24; 56-48; 70-69.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @reubensports