67th UAAP:  U.P. MAROONS  DOWN  ATENEO EAGLES  IN  TUMULTUOUS  DUEL, 74-69

MANILA,  September 2, 2004  (STAR) By Abac Cordero - The "Battle of Katipunan" was won at the Philsports Arena last night.

In a highly-physical ballgame that featured a season-high 62 fouls and a couple of near-fights, University of the Philippines showed a bigger heart as it defeated Ateneo, 74-69, and stretched its unbelievable win streak in the 67th UAAP season to six games.

"It was all about heart and pride. Ang pikon, talo," UP coach Lito Vergara told mediamen moments after the game that took more than two hours to finish due to the record number of fouls that netted a combined total 75 free throws.

"My players just didnít give up. It was a very emotional game. The rivalry between UP and Ateneo grabe talaga," added the UP coach who had to be restrained by his players a couple of times while arguing with the referees during the game.

"But I donít want to comment on that anymore," he said.

The victory was the sixth in a row for UP which lost its first six games this season. In UPís growing list of victims are National University, Santo Tomas, University of the East, Adamson, defending champion FEU and now Ateneo.

Up next for UP is La Salle on Thursday and NU for its final game in the elimination round next week.

"We told ourselves, ang battlecry namin, is lahat ng tumalo sa atin, bawian natin," added Vergara, confident that the energy level within the team is still high going into the game against La Salle.

Ateneo defeated UP in the first round in a game where the Blue Eagles lost star forward Larry Fonacier to a knee injury.

The loss was the third in 12 games for Ateneo which is already assured of a spot in the Final Four along with FEU. The two other slots remain a toss-up among La Salle, FEU and UP, the hottest toast in town.

The Tamaraws walloped the National U Bulldogs, 78-65, early on.

Marvin Cruz of UP was thrown out of the game with 7:07 left in the third quarter for pushing LA Tenorio of Ateneo to the ground during a commotion where a couple more players taunted each other.

The referees had to break up a couple more near fights in the game, one involving UPís Aby Santos and Ateneoís Doug Kramer in the 3:48 mark of the third and another involving Jireh Ybanes and JC Intal with 8:19 left in the game.

The game was tight all the way with the Maroons deciding the issue only in the final three minutes when the Blue Eagles went on a scoreless spree. The UP fans started to celebrate after Ybanes sank two charities for a 73-67 lead with 1:23 left.

The Tamaraws hardly encountered any difficulty posting their ninth win in a dozen games this season. They outplayed the Bulldogs in every department: 50-42 in rebounds, 22-14 in assists, 8-2 in steals and 9-0 in blocks. They also shot better from the field and committed less turnover, 13-25.

Coach Koy Banal, however, said it was easier said than done.

"Itís always hard to face a team playing with no pressure at all. So that was our game planóto put pressure on them. For us, every game is a must now and thatís the way it is going into the playoffs," said Banal after the victory which came on the heels of a humiliating loss to the UP Maroons last week.

Arwin Santos, the reigning league MVP, played like one. He scored a game-high 21 points and had 10 rebounds, three blocks and only one turnover in 32 minutes. Quarterback Dennis Miranda was also a force to reckon with his 14 points, 10 assists and five steals. With a 9-3 record, the Tamaraws are so close to gaining a twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four.

"Thatís our goal. We donít want to satisfy ourselves by just making it to the Final Four. And this team is ready. Weíre eyeing that twice-to-beat advantage," said Banal, also eyeing a second straight crown with the Tamaraws.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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