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Final Four berth on Eagles radar

Ateneo de Manila University shoots for a Final Four seat when it faces University of the East in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 85 men’s basketball tournament today at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Already secured of at least a playoff for a spot in the semifinals, the Blue Eagles only need to make a repeat over their first-round victim in the scheduled 4:30 p.m. tussle to advance to the next round.

Defending champion University of the Philippines, which will face also-ran University of Santo Tomas at the 11 a.m. curtain-raiser, and National University, scheduled to take on De La Salle University at 1 p.m., have already occupied the first two semis berths.

Meanwhile, Far Eastern University and Adamson University collide at 6:30 p.m. to cap the quadruple-header playdate.

Ateneo has collected three straight wins with its last coming at the expense of the Tamaraws, 71-65, last Sunday in a come-from-behind fashion.

The Blue Eagles showed resolve after falling behind by as much as 19 points to hurdle the Tamaraws.

Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin took their game against FEU as a good test of character that could boost the squad’s confidence moving forward.

“We (saw) the value of playing close games and the lessons you take out of those situations which arise in close games,” Baldwin said.

“We’ve lost all of our close games up to this point in time. We’ve won all of the games where we had a healthy margin. So, against a very good FEU team, very inspired and very well-coached, that’s a good sign for us to show some life in a close game and make some good decisions and make some good plays.”

The Blue Eagles routed the Red Warriors, 91-76, in their first meeting last 23 October.

UE is on a three-game slump and is tied with FEU at sixth to seventh spots with 4-8 slates.

The Red Warriors just like the Tamaraws cannot afford to lose their remaining assignments and pray that the Green Archers and the Falcons won’t reach seven wins to force a playoff for the fourth and last Final Four seat.

La Salle and Adamson are in a two-way logjam at No. 4 with identical 5-6 cards.

The Fighting Maroons, on the other hand, look to rebound from a sorry 80-82 loss to the Green Archers that snapped their seven-game win streak last Sunday to assure themselves of at least a playoff for a semis twice-to-beat advantage.

UP remains on top of the heap with a 10-2 slate and is tipped to overwhelm a UST side reeling from a disappointing 10-game losing slump after 11 games.

The Bulldogs, meanwhile, are out to boost their bid for a semis bonus and improve their 9-3 card to remain at solo second.

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