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‘On bended knee’

Ateneo’s Isaac Go pulls off a tight shot against three FEU defenders – Wendelino Comboy, Prince Orizu and Hubert Cani – then combines with Matt Nieto (left photo) in the clutch to steer the Eagles to another UAAP title showdown with rivals La Salle Green Archers. Jun Mendoza

Eagles make Finals, edge Tams

MANILA, Philippines — It was no sudden death. Over time, it produced heroes and a collage of defining moments in one of the most thrilling finishes in the UAAP as Ateneo edged Far Eastern U, 88-84, in their duel for the other finals berth at the MOA Arena last night.

But the most graphic that best described the Blue Eagles’ wringer of a win was Isaac Go hitting a Hail Mary of a follow-up shot practically on his knees that kept the initiative on the Eagles side in the extra period.

The 6-foot-8 Go earlier fired a pulsating trey to send the showdown in extra period and more than make up for his endgame fumble as Ateneo lost its 13-0 streak with a setback to arch rival La Salle at the end of the elims.

And there was Matt Nieto, who took matters into his own hands in the seesawing encounter as he drove through a phalanx of defenders and buried a three-pointer in Ateneo’s next possession for an 85-80 lead, 46.5 seconds left in extension.

The Tamaraws, who made a series out of the Final Four with their stunning upset in their first clash Sunday, kept the Eagles at bay with their own run behind Jasper Parker, whose charities put FEU up, 75-72, with 14.5 seconds left in regulation.

But the Eagles plotted their offensive brilliantly, setting up Go who nailed the tying trey with 8.5 seconds left.

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The Tams had one last chance to wrap it up but Arvin Tolentino fumbled at the buzzer, as the Loyola-based squad asserted itself in the extra five minutes to complete the steal of a win.

And so the blockbuster finale with waiting archrivals La Salle is on.

Game One is set at 4 p.m. on Saturday, also at the MOA Arena.

Their dream season on the brink, the Eagles dug deep in their reservoir of willpower to claw back from an eight-point deficit (59-67) in the last 6:16 to force the extension then they brought out the big guns towards the finish to seal the deal and nail the second finals berth.

“The boys deserved credit for their focus. That seemed like a lost game but they really stayed focused and I think that was the key, it helped us win this game,” said AdMU assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga.

Nieto put AdMU in front by two with a clutch short stab and stretched it to five with a booming triple. Richard Escoto’s jumper pulled FEU with three but Go restored a five-point spread with that clutch basket while down on his knees.

Nieto made five of his 16 markers in extension to backstop Thirdy Ravena (17) and Chiz Ikeh (16) in scoring.

“I told myself I won’t let this slip away, we worked really hard this season and our campaign shouldn’t end now,” said Nieto.

The Eagles had little time to celebrate and recover, though, as they’re set to face defending champion Green Archers on Saturday already. La Salle cashed in on its semis bonus to take the first finals berth at the expense of No. 3 Adamson last Saturday, 82-75.

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