Blue Eagles force Rubber Match!

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With their backs against the wall, the Ateneo Blue Eagles summoned all the strength that they could get to force a deciding game against the De La Salle Green Archers, 65-64 in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament. The Green Archers needed only a win to formally advance to the finals against UE but the Blue Eagles had a different thing in mind.

Ateneo sharpshooter Chris Tiu redeemed himself from a lethargic first half with clutch shooting down the stretch to help the Blue Eagles overcome a six-point deficit in the last 2:10. The sudden death match, their fifth encounter this year, will be played this Sunday 3PM at the Big Dome. So far, the Blue Eagles have a 3-1 edge in their series match-up against the Green Archers but the lone win by De La Salle last Sept 18 was the most crucial as it enabled them to gain the number 2 spot and a twice-to-beat advantage in the final round.

Ford Arao was again a beast for the Blue Eagles torching the nets with 19 points, 10 of which came in the first canto. Arao had a buzzer-beating jumper in the waning seconds of the game to help save the Blue Eagles’ campaign this season.

After Chris Tiu banged in a three-point jumper to cut the deficit to 61-64, Arao beat the shot clock with a baseline jumper to pull the Blue Eagles within one, 63-64, with only 51 seconds left on the game clock. Tiu then went on to score on a lay-up with 7.3 seconds left to push the Blue Eagles ahead 65-64 and the game.

The Green Archers had one more chance to win the game but guard JV Casio decided to pass to Fil-Bahraini Bader Malabes on the left wing. Malabes’ three-point attempt was off the mark. Forward Rico Maierhofer’s offensive putback failed to beat the buzzer.

De La Salle was paced by guard TY Tang with 20 points while Casio had a ho-hum performance, finishing with only 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting from the field.

The Green Archers have not lost a twice-to-beat edge in the UAAP.