Ateneo used steady shooting and stingy defense to cruise past FEU Diliman, 84-68, and move to the next stage of the UAAP Season 78 juniors basketball stepladder playoffs Wednesday at the FilOil Flying V Arena.
Eleven players entered the scoring column for the Blue Eaglets, with young gun SJ Belangel leading the way with 15 points, 8 assists and 2 rebounds, as the Katipunan quintet eliminated the Baby Tamaraws.
Graduating sniper Jolo Mendoza added 14 points while national youth team standout Gian Mamuyac collected 13 poitns for Ateneo, who will next face twice-to-beat bitter rival La Salle Zobel.
“Nothing to lose naman po kami so bibigay namin lahat ng makakaya namin para sa mga seniors namin tapos sa mga coaches namin,” said the 5-foot-11 Belangel on their chances against the 2nd-seeded Junior Archers.
Despite being outrebounded, the Eaglets were able to secure a 7-point lead heading to the second half before running over the much-smaller Baby Tams from there.
“I just told them no rebound, no rings, as Pat Riley said it, with no rebounds, we’re not gonna win a championship. So the gameplan was box out the bigs and the guards will get the rebounds,” said Ateneo coach Joe Silva
Silva’s gameplan proved to be effective as the Eaglets uncorked a 15-4 blast behind Mendoza and Mamuyac, as their lead ballooned to as much as 21 in the 3rd.
From then on, FEU struggled to buy a basket, shooting only 34.8% and failing to counter Ateneo’s firepower and full-court press.
Kenji Roman impressed in his last game of the season, pacing FEU with a monster double-double of 21 points and 13 boards — 9 of them on the offensive end.
The Blue Eaglets will face DLSZ, led by recently-crowned MVP Aljun Melecio on Monday in San Juan.
“We will do our best to contain him pero he is the MVP so it’s going to be hard. So we’ll think of ways and schemes on how to stop him,” said Silva. — By Jason Mercene