Ateneo nails 2nd win as UP comeback falls short
MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE 2) The Ateneo Blue Eagles claimed their second win of the season after weathering a late fightback by the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons to win 72-64 Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Kiefer Ravena scored a season-high 15 points and the Blue Eagles survived a career-high effort by UP’s Sam Marata with 22 points as they won for only the second time in the UAAP Season 76 men’s basketball tournament.
“That team (UP) is really very dangerous,” Ateneo coach Bo Perasol said after the game. “I think their not winning anything is not a reflection of what they really can do.”
Ateneo got off to a hot start, making their first three three-point attempts of the game to claim a 19-17 lead over the Maroons, who got nine first quarter points from Marata.
Marata cooled off in the second period, but Chris Ball and Jason Ligad combined in a 7-0 run in the middle of the frame to hand UP a 28-27 advantage.
Ateneo’s Ryan Buenafe quickly erased the deficit, drilling back-to-back triples as the Blue Eagles seized control of the game.
Buenafe’s three-pointers sparked a 16-4 Ateneo run bridging the second and third quarters that allowed them to take a double-digit lead, 43-32, early in the third canto.
They went on to lead by as much as 19 points, 57-38, after Vince Tolentino converted a lay-up off a pass by veteran point guard Juami Tiongson.
“Siguro, ever since the UAAP started, the third quarter was always our waterloo,” said Ravena, who scored nine points in the period. “But we started out strong in the first quarter, and we wanted to pound UP inside, fastbreak, outside, kahit ano.”
UP mounted a comeback in the fourth period, with Ligad and Marata both heating up as the Maroons used their perimeter shooting to cut into the deficit.
After two free throws by Ateneo’s Frank Golla off an unsportsmanlike foul by UP’s Raul Soyud gave the Blue Eagles a 70-54 lead, Marata scored eight straight points to cut the lead to single digits.
Marata drained a triple, scored on a lay-up, then drilled another triple to turn a comfortable Ateneo lead into just an eight-point advantage,70-62, with still 1:49 to go in the game.
A missed three-pointer by Buenafe kept the door open for the Maroons, but Marata could not take advantage as he missed a jump shot that could have cut the deficit further.
Chris Newsome ended UP’s hopes of a comeback when he hammered home an alley-oop off a pass by Tiongson.
It was only Ateneo’s second win of the season, which allowed them to bounce back from a sorry loss to the University of the East last Wednesday.
“More or less, we’re desperate to win,” Ravena said. “(Coach Bo) gave us the UAAP standings, and everyone was jampacked right in the middle except for FEU.”
“Alam namin ‘yung possibilities kung manalo kami ng manalo,” he added.
Perasol said they can still finish the first round with a 3-4 record and hopefully compete for the second or third spot in the league standings.
Meanwhile, the Fighting Maroons remain winless through five games in Season 76.