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Race for last 2 UAAP semis berths heats up

While La Salle is gunning for a piece of history and the other semis berth already in the bag for Far Eastern University, attention has shifted to the race for the two remaining Final Four berths in the UAAP basketball tournament which enters its final three weeks of elimination games.

Ateneo and Adamson appear to have the inside track for the last two berths although National University remains in the running despite a streak of bad games that saw the squad lose five in a row.

National University’s J-Jay Alejandro passes the ball while being guarded by Ateneo’s Thirdy Ravena (0), Aaron Black and Chibueze Ikeh during their UAAP game last Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. Ateneo won, 65-50. (Jay Ganzon)

National University’s J-Jay Alejandro passes the ball while being guarded by Ateneo’s Thirdy Ravena (0), Aaron Black and Chibueze Ikeh during their UAAP game last Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. Ateneo won, 65-50. (Jay Ganzon)

Ateneo is in third place after winning back-to-back games the past week for a 6-4 record, followed by Adamson with an even 5-5 slate after arresting its two-game skid, and NU at 4-7.

Of the three teams, Ateneo currently has the best form. The Blue Eagles beat the University of the East Red Warriors, 69-51, last Wednesday before extending the woes of the NU Bulldogs, 65-50, two days ago.

It seems that the Blue Eagles jointly coached by Tab Baldwin and Sandy Arespacochaga have found the right mix at the right time even with a young squad led by Thirdy Ravena, Aaron Black, Anton Asistio, Jolo Mendoza, and Raffy Verano.

“We still want to take it one game at a time,” said Arespacochaga. “We just want to stay focused and we want to improve each day in practice and each game.”

Adamson, meanwhile, recovered from its disappointing losses to La Salle and University of the Philippines by defeating UE, 79-71, last Saturday, thanks to a double-double by Cameroonian center Papi Sarr and rookie guard Jerrick Ahanmisi.

“I just hope these young guys can accept the challenge and the pressure. Hopefully we can attain that dream because if you look at our schedule, it all depends on us,” Adamson coach Franz Pumaren said.

NU appears to be unraveling each game. The Bulldogs won four of the season’s first six games before going on an incredible tailspin that saw them lose to the FEU Tamaraws twice and to the lowly University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers.

It appears that no player can inspire NU to launch a fight back, although the Bulldogs have the favorable schedule of the three teams. They play UP tomorrow, before tackling UE and Adamson.

Ateneo has perhaps the toughest as it meets Adamson, archrival La Salle, FEU and UST, while Adamson plays Ateneo, FEU, UST and NU.

UST and UP, tied for sixth at 3-8, and 2-8 UE are mathematically in the race, but needs short of  a miracle to claim a Final Four slot.