MANILA, Philippines – Ateneo just proved too good for the rest of the field.
The Blue Eagles completed a 14-0 sweep of the elimination round after blasting the UP Fighting Maroons, 86-64, on the final day of eliminations in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament on Wednesday, October 30 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
In completing the rare feat behind Thirdy Ravena, Ateneo clinched an outright championship berth, leaving the rest of the semifinalists to fight for the last title slot in a stepladder semifinals.
The No. 2 Maroons, who wrapped up their elimination run with 9-5 record, will still tote a twice-to-beat advantage against the winner between No. 3 FEU and the fourth-ranked UST.
"We understand that this is a significant accomplishment for a basketball team in a season. As you all know, the job isn't done," said Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin.
Ange Kouame dropped a double-double of 20 points and 12 rebounds on top of 5 blocks to lead the Ateneo onslaught.
SJ Belangel also delivered in the one-sided show with 14 points, Will Navarro shot a perfect 6-of-6 for 13 markers, while Ravena fired 11 points.
Off a back-and-forth 1st quarter where UP actually took a 21-20 lead, Ateneo answered as only champions can with a massive 23-6 run ending with a Navarro putback for the 43-27 lead at the 1:30 mark of the 2nd.
The Maroons then failed to make any adjustments in the second half as Ateneo got as far as 24 points, 73-49, off a wide-open Matt Nieto triple at the 7:46 mark of the 4th.
Ateneo kept its hold of the big lead until the final moments of the game as team stars Kouame and Ravena conspired for 6 straight points, 81-61, in the final two minutes.
It was virtually a repeat of their first-round meeting where Ateneo hacked out a 26-point beatdown of UP.
The Ateneo sweep was the first since 2007 when the UE Red Warriors also completed a 14-0 elimination run behind Paul Lee and Mark Borboran.
Ateneo 86 – Kouame 20, Belangel 14, Navarro 13, Ravena 11, Go 7, Ma. Nieto 7, Mamuyac 5, Tio 4, Maagdenberg 3, Mi. Nieto 2, Andrade 0, Chiu 0, Daves 0, Mallillin 0, Wong 0.
UP 64 – Paras 13, Akhuetie 11, Ja. Gomez de Liano 11, Ju. Gomez de Liano 9, Tungcab 5, Jaboneta 4, Rivero 4, Manzo 2, Murrell 2, Webb 2, Mantilla 1, Prado 0, Spencer 0.
Quarters: 20-21, 45-32, 65-44, 86-64.