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NU squeaks past Ateneo to secure twice-to-beat

By Josiah Albelda Posted Sep 11th 2013

Dennice Villamor scored seven of his nine points, including a game-sealing three-pointer with 22 seconds left, in the fourth quarter as the NU Bulldogs secured a twice-to-beat edge in the Final Four for the first time in history.

For Ateneo de Manila University, he was Dennice the Menace. 


For National University, he was a hero. 


Dennice Villamor delivered the backbreaking blows as the Bulldogs survived a stiff challenge from the Blue Eagles to rise with a 70-65 victory in the 76th UAAP men's basketball tournament Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.


Villamor scored seven of his nine points, including a game-sealing three-pointer with 22 seconds left, in crunch time to help his team secure a twice-to-beat edge in the Final Four.


The sweet-shooting forward missed six of his first seven attempts, but came up big when NU needed him the most as the Sampaloc-based squad finished the elimination round with a 10-4 record.


"We're very humbled by this victory," said coach Eric Altamirano. "This is the first time we're in this position and we wanna thank God for this victory."


That victory was in peril midway through the fourth quarter, when after leading by nine at 49-40, the Bulldogs fell prey to a 13-3 run by Ateneo.


Behind the hot hands of JP Erram, the Eagles took the lead for the first time at 53-52 with 5:57 left as NU repeatedly failed to execute on offense and secure defensive rebounds.


But Villamor sank back-to-back jumpers to restore order while Jean Mbe helped the Bulldogs create some distance with six free-throws as NU held a 64-59 advantage with 54 seconds left.


Chris Newsome, however, refused to give up and two free-throws by the athletic forward put the Eagles within 65-63 with 37 seconds remaining.


With a chance to seal the win with a basket, the Bulldogs went to two-time MVP Ray Parks, who drew Newsome near the halfcourt line before swishing the ball to a wide-open Villamor, who calmly drained a corner trey to put them ahead, 68-63, with just 22 ticks on the clock.


"Ateneo is a very good offensive team," Altamirano added. "If we want to get this win, we have to get it on defense."


"They stayed together. They defended collectively. It paid off in the fourth quarter."


Parks led all scorers with 24 points, seven rebounds and two steals while Mbe had a double-double with 17 markers and 12 boards.


Newsome paced Ateneo with 17 points and 11 rebounds but they couldn't overcome the struggles of Kiefer Ravena and Ryan Buenafe, who combined for 10 points on four of 25 shooting.


The scorers:


NU (70) - Parks 24, Mbe 17, Villamor 9, Alejandro 5, Khobuntin 4, Alolino 4, Porter 3, Javelona 3, Rono 1, Rosario 0, Javillonar 0


ADMU (65) - Newsome 17, Erram 11, Tiongson 8, Elorde 8, Pessumal 7, Buenafe 7, Golla 4, Ravena 3, Tolentino 0, Capacio 0


Quarters: 21-18, 33-29, 49-45, 70-65