MANILA, Philippines – Three days ago, Ateneo’s Ryan Buenafe was inside the media room licking the wounds of his ejection from the game.
Today, the burly forward was back at the press room celebrating the best game of his UAAP career.
Buenafe erupted for a career-best 24 points to lead Ateneo de Manila University in torching arch rivals De La Salle University, 77-67, in the 75th UAAP men’s basketball tournament Saturday before almost 17,200 blue- and green-clad fans at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.
Ejected in their last game after incurring two unsportsmanlike fouls, Buenafe came back with a vengeance this time, rifling in 3 three-pointers and 8 rebounds as the Blue Eagles won their 8th straight match, holding on to the solo lead with a 9-1 slate.
“Actually, last game pa ko ganado maglaro,” the former San Sebastian high school star said. “Di ko in-expect na ma-eject ako so ngayon talaga ako bumawi.”
Buenafe and sophomore superstar Kiefer Ravena set the tone early, combining for 15 points in a furious Ateneo start that saw them bury the Green Archers in a 26-10 hole in the first quarter.
But Almond Vosotros hit three-pointer after three-pointer for La Salle as the Taft-based squad slowly crawled back into the game and almost tied it early in the 3rd when the lead whittled down to two, 35-33.
Buenafe, Ravena and Juami Tiongson came to the rescue for the Katipunan-based crew, with the trio spearheading a run that gave them a 57-46 advantage entering the final period.
Rookie phenom Jeron Teng tried to rally the Archers back in the fourth, pouring in 13 of his team-high 22 points but his efforts weren’t enough to salvage La Salle’s upset bid.
The loss snapped the Archers’ four-game winning streak and sent them into a tie with idle National University for fourth with a 6-4 card.
Ravena finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists while Nico Salva and Tiongson added 12 and 10 markers, respectively, for Ateneo.
Seven-foot tower Greg Slaughter was the Eagles’ defensive anchor in the middle and posted four points, 11 rebounds and four blocks.
On the other hand, Vosotros’ guns fell silent in the last two quarters but the junior guard still ended up with 20 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists even as Arnold Van Opstal and rarely-used guard Oda Tampus chipped in 8 points each.
Dislodged by their arch rivals as the UAAP’s best defensive team, Ateneo reasserted their dominance in the field by holding their opponents to a dismal 34.3% shooting while sinking 42.2% of their own.
“We really wanted to re-establish ourselves as the best defensive team in the league,” coach Norman Black said. “That was the focus coming into this game.” -Rappler.com
ADMU, 77: Buenafe 24, Ravena 18, Salva 12, Tiongson 10, Slaughter 4, Chua 4, Sumalinog 3, Gonzaga 2, Golla 0, Elorde 0
DLSU, 67: Teng 22, Vosotros 20, Van Opstal 8, Tampus 8, Torres 4, Manguera 4, Mendoza 2, Andrada 0, Paredes 0, Torres 0, Tallo 0, Webb 0
Quarter scoring: 26-10, 35-29, 57-46, 77-67