Updated 00:58 AM PHT Thu, December 1, 2016
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Ateneo Blue Eagles eked out a 69-68 victory against defending champion the Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws in the Final Four of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) on Wednesday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Thirdy Ravena and Mike Nieto paced Ateneo with 13 markers apiece, while Isaac Go chipped in with 12 points of his own.
The Tamaraws and the Blue Eagles wasted no time going at each other after tipoff, erasing the memory of a poor first half in the first game of their series with an exciting opening to Game 2.
There was very little separating the two sides, with FEU holding a narrow 41-38 advantage over Ateneo going into the halftime break.
The two sides fought tooth and nail down the final stretch, and it all boiled down to the final possession of regulation.
Ateneo turned to Ravena with the clock winding down in the fourth quarter, but he could not sink the basket that would have ended the contest.
FEU and Ateneo entered overtime with the scores poised at 66 apiece.
Blue Eagles big man Go hit the floor at the 3:40 mark of the overtime period after an errant elbow from Prince Orizu during a loose ball play.
Go was bloodied and had to exit the game to be treated, but would come back for the Katipunan-based side to make a big difference.
With hastily patched up nose, Go took the court once again and buried a put-back bucket to put Ateneo on top, 69-68, with 1:20 left on the clock.
But the Tamaraws would not bow down easily, and were only outdone by half a second in the very last possession of the game.
With 6.6 ticks left on the clock, FEU heaved the ball down court before finally getting the ball to Ron Dennison.
Dennison knocked down the bucket what would have been the game winner, but the replay showed that the ball left his hand too late.
Graduating students Monbert Arong and Raymar Jose led FEU with 15 and 12 markers, respectively.
After the game, Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin only had good words to say about their opponents.
"I don't think you can separate these two teams with a sledgehammer and a crowbar, we were that close," Baldwin admitted. "All my congratulations and full credit to the Tamaraws, tremendous opponent and every bit as good as we were."
Ateneo will face the La Salle Green Archers for Game 1 of the UAAP Season 79 Finals on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.