Ravena, Pessumal take flight, carry Ateneo over La Salle
MANILA, Philippines - It turns out coach Bo Perasol was wrong: The Ateneo Blue Eagles do have an edge against the De La Salle Green Archers. And their names are Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal.
A week after Perasol declared “Ateneo has no edge whatsoever over La Salle” following their win over Adamson, Ravena and Pessumal combined for 50 points (Ravena with 29 points, Pessumal with 21) to save Ateneo from a sluggish start and send the Archers to a 0-2 hole with a 97-86 victory in the UAAP Season 77 men's basketball tournament on Sunday, July 20 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Matched up against the much taller La Salle, Ateneo was forced to rely on its shooters and employ zone defense to keep bigmen like Arnold Van Opstal (10 points, 9 rebounds) and Norbert Torres (8 points, 3 rebounds) from punishing them in the paint.
The zone did what it was supposed to and it shut down La Salle. But it became even more effective, if not deadly, with Ateneo's efficient 37% (10-of-27) outside shooting.
Fourth year guards Ravena and Pessumal led the Eagles' three-point shooting assault with swingman Pessumal keeping the Eagles afloat, coming from a 13-4 start to the game, with his 12 points in the first half leading to a 39-37 edge at the break.
"We talked about it in the dugout and the only chance we had of beating La Salle was to play it by possession," Perasol shared what he told his players when they were struggling in the first 20 minutes. "I just had to remind them that they cannot hang their heads if we're not making our shots."
When Pessumal cooled down somewhat in the second half, though still providing the energy on defense, Ravena took over.
Ravena flaunted his deadly form in the fourth, knocking down 4 triples and silenced the Archers even as Van Opstal looked like he was beginning to get into his groove and scored his first field goal of the game early in that period to tie the count at 61.
The King Eagle, who had only 6 points in the first half, snuffed what little flame La Salle had at that point as he drilled 3 treys, responding to another basket underneath by Van Opstal and a triple by Almond Vosotros, to put the Katipunan-based squad up 70-66 with 6:53 to play.
He later swished in his 5th triple of the game and fourth in that frame with 2:09 left on the clock to notch Ateneo's biggest lead at 85-71.
Perasol was not at all surprised by Ravena's explosion.
"Knowing Kiefer, gagawa yun ng paraan to win the game. May special ability si Kiefer to kill," he said. "No matter where, no matter how, gagawa ng paraan yun."
(Knowing Kiefer, he will find a way to win the game. He has a special ability to kill. No matter where, no matter how, he will find a way.)
Pessumal, who also had 7 rebounds and 3 assists, was in fact struggling during the preseason, according to Perasol.
"We encouraged him. Siya yung pinaka-beterano coming off the bench na makakabigay ng points." (He's the most veteran coming off the bench that could provide some points.)
Pesumal's 21 markers were the only bench points for Ateneo.
Perasol also found gems in starters Alfonso Gotladera and Arvin Tolentino.
Gotladera quietly contributed 17 points and 8 rebounds, while Tolentino fired two triples for his 14 points along with 10 rebounds.
"Ibang iba siguro yung motivation ni Alfonso coming off from La Salle," Perasol spoke of the fourth year Gotladera, who played for the Archers in his rookie year in the UAAP.
"Siyempre in a way, meron siya sigurong personal agenda, na hindi naman sa nagkamali sila, but na in a way 'I am better than what you were thinking about me.'"
(He probably has a very different motivation coming from La Salle. In a way, maybe he has a personal agenda, not to say that they made a mistake, but in a way to say 'I am better than what you were thinking about me.')
But for the guy Perasol also personally dubbed as the "Golden Boy," he entered the game with a clear mind.
"Coming into this game, I just wanted to contain Arnold and Norbert. Wala naman talagang agenda," Gotladera said. (There is no agenda.)
Looking back on what he said the previous game, Perasol still believes La Salle has the advantage over his team.
"My point was that it's going to be an uphill climb against La Salle. If you're going to coast, I don't think we're going to win. I think we just caught La Salle in a bad game."
With the win, Ateneo rose to 2-0. But Perasol is firm that it doesn't mean anything for them just yet.
"Maganda na rin yung 2-0 kaysa sa 0-3 kami last year." (It's good to be 2-0 than be 0-3 like last year.)
It's a less than ideal start to the season for the defending champions, who also succumbed to an opening day loss to the FEU Tamaraws.
Things will only get tougher for the Archers as they face the NU Bulldogs next on Wednesday, July 23.
Ateneo (97): Ravena K. 29, Pessumal 21, Gotladera 17, Tolentino 14, Elorde 9, Newsome 7, Apacible 0, Babilonia 0, Capacio 0, Ravena T. 0.
La Salle (86): Perkins 25, Vosotros 18, Teng 15, Van Opstal 10, Torres N. 8, Rivero 4, Andrada 2, Salem 2, Sargent 2, Bolick 0, Montalbo 0, Torres T. 0.
Quarter scores: 17-24, 39-37, 61-59, 97-86.
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