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Ateneo rolls on, tears Adamson streak to items; UP sews up No. 2 spot

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Zavier Lucero (left) powers UP to a victory that clinched twice-to-beat protection in the Final Four. —UAAP MEDIA

When Ateneo and Adamson tipped off their match on Tuesday, one winning streak was sure to come to an end. Nobody was kidding themselves whose run was that.

And anybody still guessing would have reached a conclusion after 10 minutes.

The Blue Eagles force-fed the Falcons with their brand of defense, forcing turnovers and limiting their foes’ scoring options to hammer out a 91-57 blowout at Mall of Asia Arena—a 12th straight victory that put the defending champions within two games of an elimination round sweep.

“The second quarter was telling in this game,” said Tab Baldwin of Ateneo. “Adamson came in prepared and motivated. Tactically they attacked us right from the start and we didn’t expect that.”

Adamson’s surprise was exemplified by a three-pointer by Lenda Douanga that gave the Falcons a 15-12 lead late in the first quarter. The Eagles managed just a slim lead at the end of the first quarter, producing similarly slim hopes that Adamson could preserve a four-game winning run.

Instead, the Falcons hurtled back to the ground with their first defeat in the second round for a 5-7 record.

“Until we got some rhythm at the end of the first quarter, it was a contest for sure. But we sort of established the mentality that we are looking for in defense and rebounding,” said Baldwin.

That defense forced Adamson into six straight turnovers in the second quarter as Ateneo raced to a 40-24 cushion. The Falcons wound up with 24 errors for the game. The Blue Eagles? Just seven. That gave Ateneo a 28-4 edge in points off turnovers and a 38th straight victory dating back to 2018.

Strong bench

Ange Kouame scored 18 points for Ateneo while Matthew Daves highlighted a strong bench performance with another 18 points.

“Credit to our guards, they just happened to find me at the right place,” said Daves.

Earlier, University of the Philippines (UP) whipped University of the East, 81-68, for its second straight victory, with Zavier Lucero coming out strong with a 20-point, 14-rebound performance.

It was the Maroons 10th victory in 12 games, while the Warriors absorbed their 12th setback in as many games.

That victory, coupled by Far Eastern U’s upset of La Salle, 67-61, in another game, handed UP the No. 2 spot and armed the Maroons with a twice-to-beat edge in the Final Four, regardless of the format. INQ

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