Photo by Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.net

The Final Four race in the UAAP Season 80 men’s basketball tournament is down to six teams after Ateneo eliminated University of the East with a 97-73 drubbing Saturday at Mall of Asia Arena.

The Blue Eagles, who are three games away from a elimination round sweep, clinched a twice-to-beat advantage in Final Four while the Red Warriors, who won three of their last five games, are out of the picture with a 3-9 card.

Thirdy Ravena scored five straight points to cap off the Blue Eagles’ 24-11 run late in the second quarter that gave Ateneo a 45-29 lead.

Kris Porter then gave Ateneo a 91-60 lead late in the fourth quarter and that capped off the Blue Eagles’ 20-8 run that began at the start of the period.

“Every game is a step forward for our team,” said Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin. “We wanted to focus and play well in this game. What worked for us is the quality of our performance.”

Ateneo tallied 26 assists in the game, nine more than what UE had, but Baldwin wanted his team to take better care of the ball after the Blue Eagles turned the rock 16 times.

“Our 26 assists is good but our defense is patchy, so there is still room to improve on.”

Ravena led Ateneo with 17 points, eight rebounds, and four assists, while Jolo Mendoza added 13 points.

Raffy Verano had 12 points and eight boards off the Blue Eagle bench while Vince Tolentino, who was tasked in guarding Alvin Pasaol, also had 12 points.

Mark Maloles had a game-high 20 points for UE while Mark Olayon added 15 points, four rebounds, and five assists.

Pasaol, who had averaged 28.2 points the past six games, struggled against Ateneo’s defense and put up a season-low eight points, on 2-of-11 shooting, to go along seven rebounds, and six assists.

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