MANILA, Philippines – The Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles left for Greece on Thursday, June 14, for a two-week training but not before picking up another crown.
The Blue Eagles survived a physical contest against the Far Eastern University Tamaraws to hack out a 70-58 triumph and rule the 2018 SMART City Hoops 25-Under Summer Classic on Wednesday.
Thirdy Ravena delivered 12 points and 6 rebounds to lead the Blue Eagles' balanced attack.
Despite the victory, Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin said the past months have been tough for the reigning UAAP men's basketball champion.
"We're just searching for better play," said Baldwin. "We only had 3 full practices since May 1 and a couple of abbreviated practices. We had a two-week break because of [the school finals] and another because of [our team building in] Baler. Everything else is just games."
"We're really suffering right now," he added. "And it's the same [tough schedule in] Greece but that's the way it is."
The Blue Eagles left for Greece for a 14-day training where they will go up against several club teams.
Baldwin, though, commended his squad for staying focused in their title match against the Tamaraws. It was the leadership of the Ateneo seniors, he said, that kept the Blue Eagles composed when things got physical in the second quarter.
"We got enough veterans on this team that is why we stayed composed," said Baldwin. "Fortunately, in the second half, we settled down and we got away with the win."
Isaac Go and Ivorian student-athlete Angelo Kouame chipped in 9 points each while Matt Nieto had 7 points, 3 assists, and 3 steals for the Blue Eagles, who, days earlier, also pulled off a thrilling overtime victory against rival La Salle Green Archers.
Ateneo only activated Ravena in the lineup during the semi-final round of the tournament presented by Chooks-to-Go, Rain or Shine Elasto Paint, Mighty Sports, Cignal TV, and Wilson Basketball.
Down 35-39 early in the 3rd frame, the Blue Eagles recovered by limiting the Tamaraws to just 12 points.
On the other end, Ateneo's offense came alive by first pounding the paint for easy free throws. SJ Belangel then provided the spark off the bench, scoring all 6 of his points in a 13-1 run that gave the Blue Eagles a 57-44 advantage.
Jasper Parker tried to fuel the Tamaraws' comeback bid in the final frame, scoring all but 5 points of FEU's 4th quarter points. However, the rest of the Tamaraws were misfiring from the field and got no closer to 8 points, 61-53, with 4:32 left.
Arvin Tolentino had a team-high 16 points and 6 rebounds for FEU, while Parker added 12 points.
ATENEO (70) - Ravena 12, Kouame 9, Go 9, Ma. Nieto 7, Navarro 6, Belangel 6, Mi. Nieto 5, Mendoza 5, Maadenberg 4, Asistio 3, Verano 3, Tio 1, Mamuyac 0, Black 0, White 0.
FEU (58) - Tolentino 16, Parker 12, Orizu 8, Gonzales 8, Comboy 7, Cani 4, Eboña 2, Escoto 1, Nunag 0, Stockton 0, Iñigo 0, Ramirez 0, Bienes 0, Tuffin 0, Jopia 0.
Quarterscores: 21-18,32-32, 55-44, 70-58