UAAP: EAGLES ZERO IN ON FINAL 4'S TOP SPOT

MANILA, September 5, 2003 (STAR) By Joey Villar  - Defending champion Ateneo went to its big men down the stretch to turn back University of Santo Tomas, 63-56, yesterday and move closer from clinching the twice-to-beat incentive in the Final Four in the 66th UAAP basketball tournament at the Araneta Coliseum.

Two-time MVP Rich Alvarez sizzled with six of his 10 points in the fourth quarter while grabbing 11 rebounds, dishing off five assists and blocking two shots while Paolo Bugia tossed in seven points, including five in the final quarter that sealed the Eaglesí 10th win in 13 outings.

Ateneo takes a nine-day rest before battling arch-rival La Salle on Sept. 13, where the Eagles seek a win that would seal the twice-to-beat advantage in the next round.

"Itís definitely an important win for us," said Ateneo coach Joel Banal.

But the Eagles had to rally from 14 points down early in the second quarter to seize the upperhand at the break only to sputter anew in the third period where the Tigers regained control, 46-43.

Dondon Villamin countered Alvarezís basket with a triple to make it a 49-45 UST lead early in the final quarter but it proved to be the Tigersí last taste of the lead as the Eagles vaunted frontline took charge.

UST thus fell to its seventh defeat against five triumphs but still remained in contention for a semifinal berth.

Earlier, University of the East ended National Universityís magical run with an 80-69 victory.

Ollan Omiping led the UE attack with 20 points to help the Warriors seal an eighth win in 11 outings, the same record by the Far Eastern Tamaraws.

All UE need was a roaring start, thanks in large part to a first quarter explosion by the exciting duo of Paul Artadi and Nino Canaleta who combined for 13 points in the period that saw it racing to a 27-15 lead.

One alarming note for the Warriors was James Yap, who was used sparingly after the sweet-shooting forward complained of back spasm in the first half.

Rey Mendoza had 20 markers for the Bulldogs, who absorbed their 10th loss in 13 outings. It snapped a two-game streak at the expense of fancied Ateneo and La Salle in that order.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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