MANILA, Philippines – The Ateneo Blue Eagles quickly dashed all worries that their long layoff might slow them down.
On fire from the get-go, Thirdy Ravena once again showed the UAAP why he is the reigning two-time Finals MVP as the undefeated Blue Eagles embarrassed the UST Growling Tigers, 91-77, in Game 1 of the Season 82 men’s basketball finals at the Araneta Coliseum on Saturday, November 16.
Ravena, the graduating star forward, flashed his entire offensive arsenal against the hapless Tigers, finishing with a season-high 32 points on a 14-of-18 shooting in the tone-setting triumph right in front of a boisterous crowd of 19,176.
The decisive win pushed the Blue Eagles – who came off a 16-day layoff after securing an outright title berth – within a victory of a third straight championship.
“Working won’t make you rusty and we worked, we worked hard,” said Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin.
The Blue Eagles will shoot for a perfect 16-0 season on Wednesday, November 20 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Ange Kouame dropped a double-double of 18 points and 12 rebounds, while SJ Belangel also scored 12 for the Blue Eagles, who shot a staggering 52.05% from the field.
"We played really bad, we were not executing," said UST coach Aldin Ayo.
After an 18-2 start largely thanks to Ravena’s easy layups, UST still managed to get back within two in the 2nd quarter, 39-41, thanks to the scoring explosion of Rookie of the Year Mark Nonoy.
However, Belangel did his part in regaining separation for the defending champions as Ateneo closed out the half on a 13-1 run for a 54-39 spread.
No UST player was able to cool down Ravena in the 3rd frame as he extended the Eagles’ lofty lead to 23, 71-48, off back-to-back triples in the last 3 minutes.
It was still all Ateneo from that point as UST rising star Rhenz Abando only managed to score his first point off a free throw, 59-78, with 8:25 left in regulation.
Nonoy was intent on going down swinging with back-to-back threes in the waning minutes, but Ange Kouame and Matt Nieto simply negated his efforts with consecutive buckets for the 88-69 lead with 2:46 to go.
Nonoy unleashed 26 points but the Tigers just couldn't get break against the efficient Blue Eagles.
"I think the players did eveything they could, some players didn't get their game going, but the coaches are still accountable for that," said Ayo.
Abando, one of UST's rookie standouts, wound up with a career-low 3 points on a 1-of-5 clip.
Brent Paraiso also had 14 points while Soulemane Chabi Yo tallied a double-double of 13 points and 10 boards for the Tigers.
Ateneo 91 – Ravena 32, Kouame 18, Belangel 12, Mamuyac 9, Navarro 6, Nieto Mi 5, Nieto Ma 5, Wong 3, Daves 2, Andrade 0, Go 0, Maagdenberg 0, Mallillin 0.
UST 77 – Nonoy 26, Paraiso 14, Chabi Yo 13, Subido 8, Cansino 4, Abando 3, Concepcion 3, Ando 2, Bataller 2, Huang 2.
Quarters: 32-17, 54-39, 76-58, 91-77