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Ateneo redemption tour continues in NBTC
Ateneo redemption tour continues in NBTC


The Ateneo Blue Eagles, who failed to advance to the UAAP juniors basketball semis for the first time in decades, hope to get their groove back in the NBTC tournament featuring some of the country’s best high school players

MANILA, Philippines – Kristian Porter and Lebron Nieto yet again delivered the goods as Ateneo advanced to the Division 2 Fearless Four of the 2023 Smart-NBTC National Finals.

Just two days after getting upset in the classification round, the Blue Eagles’ two NBTC All-Stars fueled their 74-65 triumph over Doc Boleros-NCR on Friday, March 17, at Mall of Asia Arena.

Porter flexed his muscle for 16 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 steals, while Nieto contributed 12 points, 6 steals, 2 assists, and 2 rebounds for Ateneo which swept its group phase assignments to top Pool D. 

The Blue Eagles – who saw their decades-long Final Four stint in UAAP juniors basketball come to an end this season – entered the tournament as replacement for late-scratch San Beda. 

And their struggle seemed to carry over early in the NBTC tournament as the Blue Eagles absorbed a stunning 64-41 loss to Batang Tiaong-Quezon that relegated them to Division 2, before rediscovering their winning form in the succeeding days.

“The first game, we used that as our motivation. After that, we gathered ourselves and played better, played as we should,” said Porter, the sixth-ranked high school player in the Philippines, who’ll also showcase his skills in the 2023 Under Armour-NBTC All-Star Game.

The Blue Eagles will face off against Team Tarlac on Saturday in the semifinals of this tourney backed by Smart, SM, Strong Realty and Development Corp., Under Armour, and Molten.

Team Tarlac routed Saint Benilde International School-Laguna, 78-60, to also sweep the Magic 12 and set up that playoff on the back of a red-hot Earl Sapasap.

Sapasap, one of the standout wings from the provincial qualifiers, scored 24 points to go along with 9 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals, and was backstopped by Roby Gesultura and Russel Liwanag, who scored 13 and 11, respectively.

“It’s a good matchup for us because we get to experience competing against UAAP players,” said Sapasap in Filipino of their mindset heading into the Fearless Four.

The other semis bracket features a battle between Don Bosco-Dumaguete and Homegrown-Australia in the biggest grassroots event also supported by Tecno, Regent, Rebisco, Jollibee, San Miguel Corp., Maynilad, Rebel Sports Pilipinas, MNL Kingpin, Gatorade, Swish App, Victory Liner, Jasper Jean, Darlington, Exped, Coach E Basketball School, Lighthouse Events, and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas.

The Greywolves conquered Rome Elite, 95-58, behind CJ Umali’s 23 points, 4 assists, and 3 steals, as well as 18 points from Matthew Jucom.

Don Bosco’s sweep of the group stage eliminated Team United-USA, which was hoping for the Fil-Italians to emerge victorious to be able to move on.

On the other hand, the Fil-Australians edged out Philippine Christian University-Dasmariñas, 75-72, with Kaden Puletua fronting the effort with a 23-point, 10-rebound double-double.

PCU-Dasma, SBIS-Laguna, and Doc Boleros bow out of the tournament with similar 1-1 slates, while Rome Elite exits with a winless record. –

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