MANILA,  August 2, 2004
By Abac Cordero - Never ever underestimate the heart of a champion.

Buried neck-deep after trailing by 20 points, Ateneo clawed back like a raving eagle with LA Tenorio hitting a fallaway triple in the final 4.3 seconds that gave the 2002 champion an emotional 58-55 victory over Adamson yesterday at the Philsports Arena in Pasig.

The huge Ateneo crowd, which rallied behind the team that played for the first time since losing Larry Fonacier to injury, erupted in celebration after Tenorio hit the game-winner.

At centercourt and while his teammates were whooping it up, Tenorio said he could only think of Fonacier as he orchestrated Ateneo’s final offensive thrust, dribbling slow and low in front of defender Leo Canuday beyond the three-point area before launching the biggest shot so far in the 67th UAAP season.

"All I could think of was Larry. This one’s for Larry," said Tenorio of his teammate who bid his UAAP career goodbye last week after suffering a career-threatening injury that would take at least six months to heal. This is Fonacier’s last season with Ateneo.

Fonacier watched the game at home but his parents watched from ringside. His mother, Belle, was shown on the giant television screen crying shortly after the game while his father, Phil, sat beside her. A lot of Ateneo fans wore Fonacier T-shirts and pins and the school even had a big Fonacier banner put up inside the venue.

After securing their fifth win in as many games this season, Ateneo coach Sandy Arespacochaga took his hat off to Tenorio who has hit similar baskets in the past.

"He’s always capable of hitting those kind of shots. I was just disturbed at the start with the way we’re playing but I never lost hope. No. I did not because it was still early when we trailed by 20," said the rookie Ateneo coach who stared at a 15-35 deficit for his school early in the second quarter.

Arespacochaga also had some kind words for Adamson, which is tipped to reach the Final Four this year after string of frustrating seasons.

"Adamson is a good team and they’ll be around," said the Ateneo coach.

JC Intal, Magnum Membrere, Macky Escalona and Paolo Bugia delivered for Ateneo with the former making the shots that really had the Blue Eagles and their horde of fans going. He had a couple of breakaway dunks with the last one giving Ateneo its first taste of the lead at 49-47.

In the other game, defending champion Far Eastern University got a big help from the referee as it escaped with an 86-85 overtime win over winless National University.

The game seemed headed toward a second overtime when the referee called a reach-in foul on Edwin Asoro against Don Yabut just as the final buzzer sounded. The FEU slotman sank his first charity and mised the second for the FEU win.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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