On the Trail of Champions: On to the Fray!

The Ateneo Blue Eaglets are pumped and ready to
move on to the Final Four fray.
(image by Erwin Cabbab/Fabilioh.com)
Two weeks ago, the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eaglets were in a delicate position. Having won just 6 of their first 10 games, coach Joe Silva’s wards were in the pressure cooker. Their chances of securing a Final Four slot were getting slimmer with every passing game. They would need to win at least 2 more games and hope the teams hot on their talons (Adamson and UST) would lose a couple more.

After a hot start to the season, Lambert Tenorio and Co.
found themselves in a precarious state.
(image by Erwin Cabbab/Fabilioh.com)
Fortunately, the Eaglets recovered from their stupor and got back on the winning track after losing 2 of their first 3 second round matches.

They tripped the UE Pages, leaning on the sublime frontline pairing of Tomas Ramos and Kris Porter to nab win #7. The dynamic duo combined for 42 points, 30 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 blocks to repeatedly frustrate the rallies of coach Mark Herrera’s Recto-based quintet. Wily junior sniper Anton Asistio also chipped in 14 markers on the strength of 2 triples to help spread the floor, enabling Ramos and Porter to continue their interior domination.

A few days later, the Ateneans were at it again, starting fast and strong against the bottom-dwelling UPIS Junior Fighting Maroons, whose erstwhile coach Bunky Bacay unceremoniously left the team for undisclosed reasons. The Ateneans raced to a 38-19 advantage at lemontime, and were looking on their merry way to getting win #8. The second half wouldn’t be as rosy, however, as both Ramos and Porter went down with injuries (Ramos twisted his ankle and Porter had hamstring issues). 

Kris Porter went down with a hamstring injury against UPIS,
but he has since recovered to help Ateneo's 4-peat cause.
(image by Erwin Cabbab/Fabilioh.com)
Interim UPIS coach Allen Gregorio pounced on this fortuitous development, leaning on Jozhua General, Pao Ancheta and Kim Cinco, to trim the Loyola lead to single digits. Coach Silva’s boys, though, managed to pull out of the fire and escape with a 66-62 squeaker to get the all-important eighth triumph. On that same day both Adamson and UST lost, which meant that Ateneo’s entry into the Final Four was ensured regardless of the results of their remaining games.

The Ateneans faced the Baby Falcons next, but they didn’t enjoy the services of Porter and Ramos, who were being reserved for the semis grind. Adamson stalwarts William Polican, Carl Soriano, Angelo Quinlog and Justin Lara took advantage to hand coach Jing Ruiz the no-bearing victory, 76-61.

Anton Asistio's shooting touch must be spot-on
if Ateneo wishes to continue winning.
(image by Erwin Cabbab/Fabilioh.com) 
That loss turned out to be a minor bump in the road as the Eaglets had bigger fish to fry just a week after. With revenge on their minds, Ateneo trooped to the Blue Eagle gym for their final elimination round match against one of their first round tormentors, the De La Salle Zobel Junior Archers.

In their first match of the season, the Blue & White unexpectedly led their counterparts from Alabang most of the way, losing out on some crunch time mistakes to surrender the game in overtime, 78-75. Coach Silva had the look of a man on a mission, and his wards didn’t disappoint, this time going all the way to thwart Zobel’s efforts at topping the standings.

Ateneo’s defense was able to hold the Archers to a woeful 27.8% shooting percentage from the field, while they shot 55.1% themselves. Ramos and Porter reprised their dual domination, pairing up for 31 points and 19 boards on 12-of-17 shooting from the floor. Asistio and Lambert Tenorio also chipped in, combining for 4 treys while Mark Gamboa dished out 8 assists in one of the Eaglets’ finest displays of the season. This time it was coach Boris Aldeguer’s emerald bowmen looking up from the flat of their backs, 67-56.

Tomas Ramos has been a revelation as the Eaglets'
top forward.
(image by Erwin Cabbab/Fabilioh.com)
And so Ateneo’s quest for a double 4-peat is still alive and kicking, with both the Eaglets and their older brothers heading for the Season 74 semis. Unlike the Eagles, though, Ramos, Porter and Co. will have to go through the wringer, as they’ll face the FEU Baby Tamaraws, who are armed with the twice-to-beat edge, on Friday. The two squads split their season series, with Ateneo upending FEU, 60-48, in their first match, and coach Michael Oliver’s boys returning the favor, 73-58, in round 2.

It promises to be a barnburner as both teams will be playing their full complement of players. Ramos and Porter will assume their frontcourt duties, Kyle Suarez has returned to action after a long recovery from his ACL injury, and Fran Asuncion is back in form after his dengue scare. On the other end of the floor, the Baby Tams will continue to enjoy the services of MVP favorite Jerrie Pingoy, along with reliables Giovane Luz, Dave Aguilon, Woo You, and the Sto. Domingo boys.

The Eaglets coaching staff is preparing hard for
the tough win-or-go-home matches ahead.
Needless to say, it’s a must-win situation for the Blue & White, and they’ll need us right behind them to lend all the support we can spare. The 4-peat dream is still there! On to the fray!

One BIG Fight!

AHS 69 – Ramos 22, Porter 20, Asistio 14, Tenorio 4, Consunji 3, Black 2, Gamboa 2, Ravena 1, Austria 1, Ladaban 0, Capacio 0, Vitangcol 0, Puno 0, Lim 0
UE 60 – Diswe 17, Sumang 16, Duray 10, Malones 6, Lapada 6, Rodriguez 4, Santos 1, Pangilinan 0, Mandilag 0, Briones 0, Viajar 0, Ablaza 0
QS: 10-13, 34-24, 51-38, 69-60

AHS 66 – Porter 13, Suarez 11, Asistio 7, Austria 7, Capacio 6, Gamboa 6, Ramos 4, Black 4, Tenorio 3, Consunji 2, Vitangcol 2, Ravena 1, Ladaban 0, Puno 0, Lim 0
UPIS 62 – General 15, Ancheta 12, Cinco 10, Sablan 8, Dario 7, Nacpil 4, Gregorio 3, Pajarillaga 2, Lina 1, Lopez 0, Quejada 0
QS: 24-7, 38-19, 54-39, 66-62

Adamson over AHS, 76-61 (no box scores available)

AHS 67 – Ramos 16, Porter 15, Asistio 12, Gamboa 7, Tenorio 7, Austria 6, Asuncion 2, Vitangcol 2, Ravena 0, Capacio 0, Black 0, Suarez 0, Lim 0
DLSZ 56 – Torres 12, Velhagen 9, Subido 7, Tempongko 7, Yu 6, Reyes 4, Betia 4, Lim 3, Joven 2, Boo 2
QS: 16-12, 42-32, 54-45, 67-56

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