UAAP: Ateneo escapes UE in thriller to book Final Four ticket

Ateneo’s Dave Ildefonso. –UAAP PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines–Kai Ballungay scored 14 points and Dave Ildefonso got away with 12 points and 14 rebounds as Ateneo turned back University of the East, 69-66, in extra time to seal a Final Four berth in the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament.

Ildefonso knotted the count at 62 with a long three that forced the extension and Ange Kouame completed their rise by exploiting the mismatch inside before Forthsky Padrigao closed it out for the Blue Eagles with a pair of free throws with 4.5 seconds left.

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The Blue Eagles crowded Calvin Payawal in the ensuing play, forcing the designated shooter to give it up and whip a pass to JM Tulabut, who completely missed the potential game-tying three.

“Sometimes winning ugly is not necessarily the way that you want to win, but it’s just as valuable in the standings and the standings are extremely important right now,’’ said Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin.

It was an opportunity wasted for the Red Warriors, who showed the way during the late stretch in the fourth quarter and seemed headed for an upset only to fumble in the end and kissed their semifinal hopes goodbye.

With its ninth win in 12 games, Ateneo joined semifinalists University of the Philippines (11-2) and National University (9-4) and could even clinch a twice-to-beat edge in the playoffs by sweeping their remaining assignments.

But it could be easier said than done as the Blue Eagles face the Fighting Maroons on Saturday, their tormentor in the finals last season, before ending the second round against the Adamson Falcons.