DEFENDING champion National University (NU) advanced to its eighth straight finals appearance, clipping the wings of Ateneo via an 83-64 win in the UAAP women’s basketball Final Four at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Co-captains Camille Clarin and Mikka Cacho joined hands as the top-seeded Lady Bulldogs stamped their class in their first Final Four foray after their bid to enter the finals directly via a sweep was foiled following a momentous loss to La Salle.

Ms. Clarin put up 19 points, three rebounds, and three assists, while Ms. Cacho had 15 markers, a steal and a block for the Lady Bulldogs, whose 108-game winning streak over nine years came to an end, leaving it with a 13-1 record in the elimination round.

Annick Edimo Tiky added 10 while Gypsy Canuto and Kristine Cayabyab chipped in eight apiece for NU, which will face either No. 2 La Salle or No. 3 Santo Tomas in the best-of-three titular showdown next week.

In a wild turnaround, Santo Tomas erased the twice-to-beat advantage of La Salle with a 68-57 triumph in the second game yesterday to force a rubber match next week.

“I’m very happy kung nasaan kami ngayon (with where we are now) but then again, job is not yet done. The mindset remains, whoever we play, we play our game. We’ll prepare against whoever (makes it to the ) championship,” NU coach Aris Dimaunahan said on his first finals appearance after taking over from Pat Aquino this season.

“Both La Salle and UST are formidable teams (that we need to prepare for) whoever gets into our way sa finals,” he added.

Later, MVP frontrunner Eka Soriano imposed her will on the Lady Archers with 23 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and two steals to keep the Tigresses’ in the thick of finals contention.

“We pulled through this knockout game. But… the job is not yet over (until we beat La Salle twice),” Santo Tomas mentor Haydee Ong said.

Kacey Dela Rosa (22-18) paced Ateneo while Charmine Torres had 16 points, nine boards and four steals in a losing cause for La Salle. — John Bryan Ulanday

The Scores:

First Game

NU 83 — Clarin 19, Cacho 15, Tiky 10, Canuto 8, Cayabyab 8, Pingol 7, Bartolo 7, Fabruada 6, Betanio 3, Surada 0.

Ateneo 64 — Dela Rosa 22, Joson 13, Calago 10, Makanjoula 7, Villacruz 6, Miranda 2, Eufemiano 2, Angala 2, Nieves 0, Fetalvero 0, Perez 0.

Quarterscores: 27-20, 52-39, 62-50, 83-64

Second Game

UST 68 — Soriano 23, Tacatac 17, Pangilinan 11, Dionisio 7, Santos 3, Villasin 3, Serrano 3, Bron 1, Ambos 0, Araza 0.

La Salle 57 — Torres 16, Niantcho Tchuido 10, Sario 10, Binaohan 7, De La Paz 4, Arciga 4, Jimenez 2, Ahmed 2, Dalisay 2, Espinas 0.

Quarterscores: 14-12, 38-23, 53-37, 68-57.