Jones Cup: Ateneo escapes Japan to end two-game skid

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines-Ateneo Blue Eagles fended off a furious second-half assault from Japan to hack out an 80-74 win and end a two-game skid in the 40th William Jones Cup in New Taipei City, Taiwan, on Wednesday, July 18.

Ateneo squandered a 14-point lead in the 4th quarter and had the Japanese creeping within striking distance in the final minute before holding on to the triumph and improve to 2-2. 

An Angelo Kouame bucket put the Blue Eagles up 76-70 with 38 seconds remaining but Japan made it a 3-point game courtesy of a Takuma Sato triple. 

Japan forced a 5-second inbound violation and had a chance to either equalize or trim its deficit to a whisker.

However, the Japanese failed to convert in the next possession as Adrian Wong buried 4 straight freebies he earned following a deliberate foul from Sato to give Ateneo a comfortable 80-73 cushion. 

Wong and Sato had to be separated by game officials and Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin as an irate Wong tried to confront Sato after receiving a hard slap to the head.  

Japan buried a freebie courtesy of Wong's second motion but it could not mount another comeback as time ran out.

Kouame paced Ateneo with a huge double-double of 15 points, 15 rebounds, 3 steals and two blocks while Thirdy Ravena finished with 14 points, 9 rebounds, 3 steals and an emphatic block on Sato within the last two minutes. 

Wong added 11 points, Matt Nieto chipped in 10 points and 6 rebounds while Gian Mamuyac had 9 points and 4 steals in the win. 

The Blue Eagles looked like there were in for an easy win as they led 50-36 in the 3rd period before Japan unloaded a 19-10 run to make it a 5-point game heading into the final frame.

Japan continued to chisel away on its deficit and knotted the score at 60-all off a Koyo Takahashi jumper. 

Sato churned out 12 points and 3 rebounds to lead Japan, which absorbed its 3rd loss in 4 games, while Takahashi and Keita Imamura added 11 and 10 points, apiece.

The Scores:

Ateneo-Philippines (80): Kouame 15, Ravena 14, Wong 11, Matt Nieto 10 Mamuyac 9, Mendoza 8, Mike Nieto 5, Verano 4, Black 2, Go 2, Maagdenberg 0, White 0 

Japan (76): Sato 12, Takahashi 11, Imamura 10, Hashimoto 9, Tamaki 8, Namizato 6, Hiraiwa 5, Toews 5, Schafer 5, Nakanishi 3, Sugiura 0, Inoue 0.

Quarter scores: 21-13, 37-31, 60-55, 80-74

Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.