(Mall of Asia Arena)
2 p.m. - NU vs UP
4 p.m. - FEU vs La Salle
In a season full of controversies and late-game drama, the 75th UAAP basketball tournament's biggest game witnessed a share of both in the final seconds.
Thanks to what was described as a lucky play, Ateneo weathered the ferocious challenge of University of Santo Tomas in the final quarter to eke out a thrilling 68-66 victory held yesterday in front of 16,766 fans at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Ryan Buenafe's go-ahead three-point play that was aided by a Kevin Ferrer foul and a goaltending call on Karim Abdul enabled the Eagles to shatter a one-point deficit with 5.1 seconds left before Growling Tiger Aljon Mariano missed a triple off Nico Salva's tight defense at the horn.
The great escape secured Ateneo's place as the top team heading into the Final Four with a league-best 12-2 slate.
It was a thrilling conclusion to the much-awaited rematch of two UAAP heavyweights from their first round encounter that likewise ended in similar fashion.
"This was a very difficult game and it shows how good the UST team is," said a relieved coach Norman Black, whose Eagles avenged their stunning 71-70 loss on July 19 where they lost a huge 19-point advantage.
Earlier, Black burst into fierce anger that was not seen since his coaching days with San Miguel in the PBA when Buenafe lost the ball off two defenders that set up a Karim Abdul jumper with 7.7 ticks left for a 66-65 UST lead.
The sea of yellow-clad Tiger fanatics erupted in jubilation but Ateneo found Buenafe in the post on the ensuing play then attempted a basket off Ferrer's foul before a leaping Abdul swatted the ball which seemed to have dropped into the right side of the ring.
Referees ruled that Abdul committed a goaltending, thus giving the lead back to the Eagles. After Buenafe sank the bonus charity, Salva forced Mariano to miss a stepback three from the left side, forcing UST to drop into third spot at 9-4.
"Even though he was not there offensively, he won the game for us with his defense on Mariano," said Kiefer Ravena.
Ravena had 18 points, including a highlight dunk off a challenging Abdul in the second quarter, but it was point guard Juami Tiongson who made key shots in the third that put Ateneo ahead, 56-42.
UST, however, clawed its way back, taking a 63-61 lead on a Clark Bautista jumper with 1:23 left to play.
In the first game, Adamson defeated University of the East, 89-69, in a battle of two teams already out of Final Four contention. The Falcons, behind 21 points from Jericho Cruz, tied the Warriors for sixth at 3-10.
Meanwhile, Far Eastern University's Arvie Bringas was handed another punishment by commissioner Ato Badolato, this time with a two-game suspension for his elbow on Dioni Hipolito in the Tamaraws' 67-63 win over University of the Philippines on Thursday.
It was the second punishment for Bringas, who two weeks ago was caught spitting in the face of Justin Chua in FEU's 77-64 loss to Ateneo.
ADAMSON 89 - Cruz 21, Cabrera 15, Brondial 14, Camson 10, Rios 9, Etrone 9, Monteclaro 7, Petilos 2, Olalia 2, Trollano 0, Deans 0, Cabigas 0, Agustin 0, Abrigo 0.
UE 69 - Sumang 24, Javier 18, Sumido 10, Santos 10, Belleza 3, Galanza 2, Duran 2, Alberto 0, Valdez 0, Olayon 0, Hernandez 0, Flores 0.
Quarters: 28-14; 54-37; 72-55; 89-69.
ATENEO 68 - Ravena 18, Tiongson 13, Buenafe 11, Slaughter 10, Sumalinog 7, Salva 6, Elorde 3, Gonzaga 0, Golla 0, Chua 0.
UST 66 - Abdul 22, Teng 12, Mariano 9, Fortuna 8, Ferrer 8, Bautista 7, Vigil 0, Pe 0, Lo 0, Afuang 0.
Quarters: 15-18; 30-33; 52-43; 68-66.